Page 85 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 8 February 2022

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DR PATERSON (Murrumbidgee) (3.16): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

I believe that today is a very important day in the ACT. I believe that there is some justice for survivors of sexual assault in this law reform that I am bringing to the Assembly today. For all the victim/survivors of sexual violence in the ACT, to every one of you, I am so sorry for what you have experienced and I am sorry for the burden, for the weight that you carry.

Scott Morrison talks about quiet Australians. There is an awful, sickening number of silent Australians—people, women, children—who have been subjected to sexual violence in our community. These silent Australians, silent Canberrans, mostly women, live with the trauma of their experiences on a daily basis and because of a plethora of reasons—personal, cultural, structural—these people stay silent.

In 10 months last year, from January to October, ACT Policing received 262 reports of sexual assault; 262 people in our community were subjected to some form of sexual violence. In a similar time frame, from July 2020 to June 21, 13 sexual offences went to trial in the Supreme Court of the ACT. Four had a guilty verdict.

Based on those figures, if you are a victim of sexual assault you have approximately a four per cent chance of going to trial and a one per cent likelihood of a guilty verdict. So the vast number of those 262 people that attended a police station in the last year walked back out into the community and live with the fact that they were raped, sexually assaulted, sexually violated, for the rest of their lives, with no justice.

Then what happens to those people, those women who never went to the police station, who perhaps were one of the thousands of calls that the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre receives each year? In our lovely, beautiful city that we all hold so dear to our hearts there is a deep undercurrent of violence, sexual violence, rape, that hurts us all that it exists. And that is why we must do all and everything we can to stop this.

The sick part of this discussion is that for every one of those 262 reports—or more—of sexual assault in our community there is a perpetrator. There are least 262 men in our community last year that raped, violated, assaulted someone. I am highly conscious of how uncomfortable the gendered nature of this is to talk about, but in 2020, 87 per cent of sexual assault victims in the ACT were women.

Further to this, in the ACT, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women with a disability, culturally and linguistically diverse women, transgender women experience sexual assault at disproportionate rates to the rest of the community. These perpetrators, predominantly men, attack the most vulnerable people in our community, when they are most vulnerable, in the most violating way. That is why it is the job of all of us to stop this, to educate our community, our children, our young people, to take a stand when we see bad behaviour, to work as a community, a network, a friendship group, a family, to stop this violence.

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