After just six weeks of operation, a new forensic unit for victims of sexual assault has already been used six times.
The facility, located at the site shared by Victoria Police’s sexual assault and child abuse team and the Loddon Campaspe Centre Against Sexual Assault, is used to collected DNA material from victims that can identify the perpetrator of an assault.
The six incidents constitute two-fifths of all new cases to which CASA responded in 2015-16.
CASA chief executive director Kate Wright said the statistic indicated little had changed in the community’s attitude towards violence against women.
“There’s this pervading acceptance about how we view our gender roles, how men view women and how we raise our children,” Ms Wright said. “It’s about gender bias and how we try to change what’s okay and what’s not okay.”
Her organisation offered therapeutic services to 800 people affected by sexual assault last year, half of whom were children.
The addition of a forensic unit at the CASA site means victims of sexual assault do not have to visit a hospital emergency room for examination, a public environment Ms Wright said could deter victims from reporting the crime.
It also removed the need for victims to recount their story again and again.
“Here, they don't have to wait. The police and our staff and the person who's been assaulted are all here, so it can all happen very quickly.”
The unit is also designed to protect the probity of evidence, thoroughly cleaned between cases and with doors sealed until a forensic nurse or doctor arrives.
As part of its community education efforts, which already involved professional development for Bendigo organisations wanting to know how best to handle reports of sexual assault, CASA will invite feminist activist Clementine Ford to speak at the Capital Theatre on November 10.
If you or someone you know is the victim of sexual assault, contact the Victorian Sexual Assault Crisis Line on1800 806 292. In an emergency, dial 000.