PRESIDENT of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence Roberta Clarke has described as “shocking” and “terrible” the report that two per cent of sexual offences have been solved since 2000.
In the Senate on Tuesday, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi reported from the year 2000 to the present there were 13,630 sexual offences cases and the number convicted was a “whopping” 321 or 2.35 per cent. He made the comment while piloting a motion to approve the Administration of Justice (DNA) Regulations and said none of the sexual offences cases had been solved using DNA evidence.
Clarke, in an interview on Friday, said while she was shocked at the local conviction rate she was not surprised given the global trend of under-reporting and under investigation of sexual assault against women. She said those who work in the area of gender-based violence have seen impunity regarding crimes being committed.
“There is a systemic failure to bring people to account for crimes committed against women, especially sexual offences.”
She said the Coalition was encouraged that the AG had done his research and was able to bring this terrible statistic to the population.
“What it means is how do we improve detection and prosecution of rape and sexual assault.”
Clarke said, knowing people who provide services to victims of sexual assault, many people do not report incidents to the police.
“We have stats where we have reports. But the larger situation is so many not reporting due to fear, distrust, frustration, fear of the process, humiliation – all of these things.”
Clarke said there is also a lack of social support and fear of judgement and stigma by victims.
“How often have we heard ‘why she wear those clothes?’ ‘Why was she in that place, at that time of day?’ We are questioning victims’ behaviour and judging them rather than the perpetrator.”
She said victims need to be able to trust the system to listen to them, to investigate, to detect and to charge. She added while the two per cent statistic was very discouraging it was encouraging that the AG had taken up the issue and was helping to make it visible.
“Naming it is a step forward.”
She said other things have to be done including that police need to be better trained to receive reports in a non-judgemental, receptive way, and for better responses in the justice services. She said, for example, some countries have specific women police to receive women victims and added that things needed to be done administratively to make reporting a less stressful exercise and to avoid re-victimisation.
On the implementation of DNA in sexual offences investigations locally, Clarke said it could be used where there is denial of a sexual act or when someone denies they were involved in the act and there was a need to prove a connection between the person and evidence.
“DNA is one step forward in increasing the arsenal of evidence.”
She said officers would then need to make the decision to arrest, charge and prosecute.