Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research
Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research (CDFVR) is based in Mackay and contributes to the prevention of domestic and family violence by informing, promoting and supporting the actions of individuals, communities, services and governments through state-wide leadership in research, professional development, education and community engagement. The Centre's research function is to initiate, undertake and collaborate on innovative and interdisciplinary research and publications to reduce deficits in domestic and family violence knowledge and literature. CDFVR is also committed to undertaking applied research that supports the development of policy and practice in the field of domestic and family violence prevention with a particular, though not exclusive, focus on issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and rural and regional communities
The Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women funded the Townsville Sexual Assault Support Service to provide a 24-hour seven-day-a-week response. This really came about and is seen as best practice across the world, not just here, in providing a timely response for victims when they report. But also not just when there is an immediate incident, but they can also report historical abuse.
We’ve been doing that since the 1st of July 2017. At that time the Department engaged Central Queensland University to evaluate this pilot project and since then we've been walking that journey with Central Queensland University. It is a funded 24-hour response to sexual assault victims in Townsville. It is funded, or the Women’s Centre is funded to support the trial in Townsville and that is a part we are evaluating.
This trial is important because of what it has established. It has, by the collection of data, found that there has been an increase in sexual assault, reported sexual assaults, there has been an increased provision of sexual assault counselling and support to victims. More victims have come forward for help and to report. More victims have received medical attention, more victims have received clinical forensic medical responses and more offenders have been charged.
The real-world impact where we’re looking at, is to all, to track what happens for victims, so in a way that we understand what it means in their lives. So as part of the research, we are also talking to victims, as well as the agencies and other key stakeholders.
Staff at the Townsville Sexual Assault Service and the Women’s Centre feel that they are actually providing a very positive, supportive service and all feedback to that staff indicates that it’s an extremely valuable support to victims of sexual assault.
It is imperative that there is an immediate response and one that can also be ongoing, because of the trauma. So the problem has been in the past, that victims are often reluctant to report for a whole range of reasons.
I think while the start is a core group of four agencies, there’s many, many, many other players involved in working towards the elimination and prevention of sexual violence in our community. CQU is one of those partners. They are developing expertise in the area of sexual assault and sexual assault support services throughout Queensland. Townsville hopes to support the rest of the state to enable sexual assault response teams to be right through the state, to empower victims of sexual violence.
So the fact that it's 24/7, I think is a significant component of the trial, because those four agencies I’ve named go to the victim, or the victims, at that place rather than having to try to access all different services. So again, the fact that a sexual assault happens at 2:00 am in the morning, all those agencies are available and are quite proud that they are actually responding within 30 minutes. You know for instance, if there is a forensic examination needed at the hospital, the Women’s Centre and all partners have said that they are there within 30 minutes. Which I think is quite significant you know, and good to hear isn’t it, yeah.
Working with CQU and looking at the results of doing that, one thing is that, once you begin to provide a service it’s all go and you’re very focussed on providing that service, meeting the needs of the community and meeting the needs of individuals. By engaging with a university, has been a chance to look at research, there’s been a chance to reflect on that research and there’s been a chance to look at the use of research and the identification of other models, and where they put, where and how they can inform our service.