Rape is abuse of power, control

SEXUAL violence is one of the most under reported crimes in our country.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission's Sexual Offences: Law and Procedure Final Report suggests that of the sex crimes reported, one in six reports to police of rape result in prosecution.

The ‘why’ is too complex to address in the 420 words allowed for this column, so instead let's this week turn our thoughts to those who have reported such personal violations, and acknowledge their bravery.

It's important we talk about the strength of victims when they come forward to report sex crimes.

Last week, taxi driver Robert Byrnes was found guilty of two counts of rape on a female passenger and two of indecent assault.

What the jury didn’t know, was that Byrnes was to face three separate trials in relation to three separate women.

He has now pleaded guilty to five indecent assaults relating to his second and third victims.

As a community, we owe a great deal of thanks to those women who were not only brave enough to report Byrnes to police, but to then follow through with the legal process and see him have his day in court.

Rape is horrific – and that horror is always compounded by the legal process that follows.

The best investigators can put forward the strongest of cases, but at the end of the day there will always be blame – blame placed on the victim. It becomes about them.

The defence always asks, what did they do to provoke ‘sex’? Yet let’s remember, rape is not sex – it is a violent crime about power and control, and the most hideous violations of human rights.

It is about dominance over others - whether the victim is female, or male. Rape is a choice people make to intimidate others. More often than not women and children are the victims, because they are too often seen by men as the lesser status, but men too can be, and are, victims of sex crimes. 

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics personal safety survey 2006, one in five women and one in 20 men have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15 years.

Ninety three per cent of offenders are male.  It is those 93 per cent of men and seven per cent of women who are to blame for their choices.

But in every case, it becomes about victim blaming. They were drunk; their behaviour suggested they wanted it; why were they out so late, on their own; why didn’t they put up a fight? But rape is never, ever the victim’s fault. No circumstances cause rape. Rapists commit rape.

And it takes a strong victim to stand up and say that in a society where they will be judged for their every action at the time of the horrific experience.

Centre Against Sexual Assault crisis line: 1800 806 292

It's important we talk about the strength of victims when they come forward to report sex crimes.

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