The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics (BOCSAR) has reported a 61 per cent increase in reports of sexual assault, a staggering jump linked to widespread community attention on matters of sexual violence.
BOCSAR statistics showed police recorded 940 sexual assaults in March 2021; 300 more than in February 2021 and 61 per cent more than the monthly average. Most of these incidents had female victims.
BOCSAR said in a statement following the release of its quarterly crime statistics that the rise “appears to be due to a temporary rise in victim willingness to formally report sexual violence”.
“The timing of the increase closely aligns with saturation media coverage of numerous sexual assault allegations in late February and March 2021. This triggered a wide-spread community conversation about sexual violence and consent of a scale not previously seen,” the statement said.
The March 2021 increase shows that, under the right conditions, more victims will come forward. More now needs to be done to make sure that victims who reach out are appropriately supported.
Recorded assaults involving victims aged between 13 and 20 years old accounted for two thirds of the increase. BOCSAR’s Executive Director Jackie Fitzgerald said the preliminary data for April 2021 shows reports of sexual assault have decreased.
“Typically, only around 10 per cent or 15 per cent of adult sexual assault victims report to police,” Fitzgerald said.
“The March 2021 increase shows that, under the right conditions, more victims will come forward. More now needs to be done to make sure that victims who reach out are appropriately supported.”
The statistics were released shortly after the NSW Government announced proposed changes to consent laws.
NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman will introduce a Bill to NSW Parliament later this year, which hopes to legislate an affirmative consent model – clarifying that an accused person’s belief in consent will not be reasonable in the circumstances unless the other person said or did something to ascertain consent.
“[The proposed model] will address issues that have arisen in sexual offence trials about whether an accused’s belief that consent existed was actually reasonable,” Speakman said. “No one should assume someone is saying ‘yes’ just because they don’t say ‘no’ or don’t resist physically. Steps should be taken to make sure all parties are consenting.”
In the two years to March 2021, 10 of the 17 major crime categories trended downwards, including robbery with a firearm (down 35.2 per cent), motor vehicle theft (down 16.3 per cent) and stealing from a retail store (down 29 per cent). BOCSAR said the large decreases reported in many offences represent falls in crime associated with the response to the pandemic in 2020.