Sexual Violence Awareness Month – Start by Believing

The single biggest factor stopping victims/survivors speaking out about sexual violence is the fear of not being believed.

Di Maclead, Director, Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence

On average, one in five women is likely to experience sexual violence over the course of her lifetime,1 and that assault is most likely to occur by someone she knows. Community attitudes that minimise or dismiss women’s allegations of sexual assault remain alarmingly high, with 42% of people believing that women make up claims of sexual assault to get back at men and 31% of people believing that rape allegations were a result of women experiencing regret after engaging in a sexual act.

October is Sexual Violence Awareness Month (SVAM) with the simple but powerful message, Start by Believing. WorkUP Queensland reached out to practitioners working in the sexual violence sector across the state, asking them what this meant to them and their practice and how they planned to acknowledge sexual violence awareness month.

When we start by believing we can change the whole trajectory of healing, of justice and healthcare. It’s simple…I believe you, I am sorry this happened to you, how can I help?

Di Macleod challenges us by asking When someone tells you they were sexually assaulted, how will you respond?

When invited to reflect on SVAM Katrina Weeks, at the Centre Against Sexual Violence (Logan), offered the following:

It makes such a big difference to a survivor of sexual assault if you start by believing their disclosure. It is important to support them in ways they find helpful. In my work as a sexual assault counsellor I have found that women and children who have been believed by whoever they first disclosed to have gone on to have much better outcomes both in their healing and possible criminal justice responses. Here at CASV we have worked with the Gold Coast CASV and Logan police to promote Start by Believing.  

Another theme for this year’s SVAM is #affirmative consent. Queensland needs legalisation that supports a model of affirmative consent based on the idea that all people have the right to have sex or not. That any sex that takes place needs active confirmation including everyone involved taking steps to ensure the others involved want to participate freely.  Current proposed legislative changes do not go far enough and do not support a community standard of active consent.

Support a SVAM event

The Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence is commencing with an online launch event in October, and then each week this month they will be hosting events under different themes. You can find more information here.

The Centre Against Sexual Violence in Logan and Murrigunyah Family and Cultural Healing Centre will be holding their annual candle lighting vigil via Facebook. They will be launching virtual tours of their services in Logan and Redlands via their website and Facebook. The Centre Against Sexual Violence will also be distributing coasters with the theme of Ask, Listen, Respect throughout the community. You can find out more here.

Women’s Legal Service Queensland are holding a webinar about the Sexual Assault Counselling Privilege on 28 October 2020 at 1:00pm for community service providers in Queensland. You can register to attend here.

Finally, congratulations to all the recipients of the 2020 Sexual Violence Prevention Grants. They include a range of innovative and practical projects that will happen across the state. You can find out more here.

  1. Facts and figures informing this article are taken from Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS). (2018). Are we there yet? Australians’ attitudes towards violence against women and gender equality: Summary findings from the 2017 National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS) (Research to policy and practice, 03/2018). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS.