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"Why Didn't You Report It?"

Why come forward now? Why did it take you so long to report? Or conversely, Why didn’t you report it?

These are questions that are brought up so frequently when we discuss reporting gender-based violence.

Gender-based violence is a major crisis globally and in Australia - it is just heartbreaking how many victims there are.

On average one woman a week is killed by a man in Australia. As I write this it is the last week of July, we are 30 weeks into 2023, there have been 38 women killed. With 11 of those passing this month alone.

There are several terms we can use when discussing this violence - Gender-based violence (GBV), domestic violence , family violence, femicide*, male violence and intimate partner violence just to name a few. There are multiple terms, but they all come down to the same thing, harming individuals because of their gender - patriarchal structures and misogyny sustain the disproportionate rate of women and gender non-conforming people being killed by men.

*Femicide is the killing of girls, women, and gender non-conforming people by men typically due to gender.

Femicide Watch on Twitter is a great resource to stay informed on this issue as is Sherele Moody on Instagram. I will link these accounts at the bottom.

There are so many factors and circumstances surrounding why victim survivors do not report or seek assistance from the police.

According to the 2016 Personal Safety Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics 9 out of 10 victims did not go to police after their incident.

Common reasons listed for this were: victims feeling like they could deal with it themselves (34%,) or not regarding the incident as a serious offence (34%, or 187,000).

One in 4 women (26%) who did not contact the police also said it was because they felt ashamed or embarrassed about the incident.

The ABC has posted a great and informative resource regarding GBV and the Australian police. I am going to pull out some data from this site now:

Police “cleared” or resolved more than 34,000 or 25 per cent of sexual assault investigations without making an arrest or taking other legal action.

More than 140,000 sexual assaults were reported to Australian police in the 10 years to 2017. Police rejected nearly 12,000 reports on the basis that they do not believe a sexual assault occurred. The exact figure could not be calculated because official crime statistics exclude these reports, and NT Police refused to provide any data to ABC News.

However, figures from the rest of Australia suggest one in 12 sexual assault reports are “unfounded”, rising to one in four in some regions. Just 30 per cent of sexual assault reports led to an arrest, summons, formal caution or other legal action.

Numerous studies from Australia and overseas have found misclassification of sexual assault cases is routine.

When you are constantly hearing stories of victims not being believed nor heard by police, having their reports dismissed it is quite obvious why victim survivors are reluctant to come forward.

There are high rates of violence recorded within the police force, the ABC has written a great article called “Abusers in the Ranks”, discussing abuse in the force. The police have admitted that they police their own differently than the general public. They have a workplace culture of protecting one another. Police in Victoria released data in 2017 surrounding the workforce and abuse. Their review revealed that criminal offences involving police officers more often than not did not result in any action being taken. 80 percent of alleged family violence offences were processed in the legal system. Comparatively however, less than 20 percent of alleged offenders who were policemen were processed in the legal system.

“The fact that police responses to family violence are different when the perpetrator is a police officer comes as no surprise, because it is what women who experience this violence have been saying for a long time,” Lauren Caulfield, coordinator of the Policing Family Violence project in Melbourne stated.

“Women we support tell us there is a culture of police officers having each other’s backs that dissuades them from speaking out, or means that when they do, the violence is minimised or excuses are made. There’s a focus on the ways reporting abuse could impact the officer’s wellbeing or damage their career instead of on the safety of the women targeted.” Ms Caulfield said.

These stories, surveys and statistics are telling us the problem yet there are no changes or reform.

So before you dare try and mutter the words “Why didn’t you report it?” and “How come it took you so long to come forward?”, actually take a second to think and understand the problem.

It is time to stop victim blaming, stop protecting offenders and to do your research, get informed and understand the culture that fosters this male violence.

These tables below published by the AIHW list the reasons why victims did not seek police contact.

AIHW links:

Femicide Watch twitter:


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