Brittany Higgins, Grace Tame, and Chanel Contos have had a significant impact on police reports of rape allegations.
There has been a "dramatic and unexpected" increase in police reports of rape allegations, owing in large part to activists such as Brittany Higgins, Grace Tame, and Chanel Contos.
The campaign by female activists such as Brittany Higgins, Grace Tame, and Chanel Contos for a national discussion about the prevalence of sexual assault and consent has sparked a "sharp and unexpected" increase in police reports of rape allegations.
Mark Speakman, the New South Wales Attorney-General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence, revealed today's unprecedented increase in sexual assault reports.
It also follows national headlines about historic rape allegations leveled against former Attorney General Christian Porter, which he categorically denies and for which he has filed a defamation lawsuit.
According to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) brief, sexual assault incidents reported to NSW Police increased by 61% in March 2021, compared to the monthly average over the previous year.
“I applaud the extraordinary fortitude of all victim survivors who have recently contacted police to report sexual assaults,” Mr Speakman said.
“Our message to victim survivors is to recognize that they are not alone and that assistance is available, whether through the police or another type of support or counseling service.”
And, while experts are unable to pinpoint the exact cause of the increase, they believe that media coverage of Australian of the Year Grace Tame and former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins' sexual assault allegation played a significant role.
Chanel Contos, a former Sydney schoolgirl who now resides in London, has also encouraged hundreds of women to share their stories on Instagram and elsewhere.
“While this increase is a result of extensive media coverage and long overdue public discussion of sexual violence in our communities, it also demonstrates what we already knew: these crimes are significantly underreported on a daily basis,” Mr Speakman said.
NSW is now a leader in the reform movement, having overhauled its consent laws.
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The changes will give judges the discretion to issue five directives to their juries that dispel stereotypes about how victims should behave or why some victims "freeze" during nonconsensual sex.
“They cannot conclude, based on their lack of emotion, that they are or are not telling the truth,” he explained. “You cannot infer consent based on the absence of injury or violence.”
Additionally, juries will be reminded that a victim's attire at the time of the offense does not constitute consent.
“Consent cannot exist unless the party has said or done something to indicate consent,” Mr Speakman explained.
“Consent must be communicated by the other party through their words or actions.”
Police and Emergency Services in New South Wales While David Elliott expressed concern about the increase in sexual assault allegations, he expressed relief that women and men felt safe coming forward and seeking help.
“While these figures are distressing, it is encouraging that there is an increased willingness to report sexual assaults, which is a testament to the courage of all victims who come forward and to police for ensuring that victims know they will be supported and believed,” Mr Elliott said.
Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith, the State Crime Commander, commended victims for coming forward.
“Reliving trauma and coming forward as a victim of sexual violence requires incredible courage,” Assistant Commissioner Smith said.
“Since the launch of Operation Vest in March of this year, a significant increase in the number of community members reporting sexual violence has occurred.
The courage and bravery of those individuals has already resulted in significant law reform, with consent laws being strengthened and simplified across the state. “NSW Police will always conduct thorough investigations into reports of sexual violence, and it is critical that we as a community continue these conversations and encourage people to come forward.”