After the extended period of lockdowns, community services that offer support for people who have experienced sexual abuse, are seeing greater demand for help.
Southern Sydney Sexual Assault Service at St George Hospital offers support for people aged 14 and over, who are victims of recent or historical sexual assault. The free service provides therapeutic work, advocacy and legal support by linking people to vital services in the community.
The service's Manager of Counselling in Violence Prevention and Response, Katrina Hurley, said the pandemic created notable trends in the reporting of incidences from those seeking assistance.
"What we noticed through lockdowns was an inability of those to come forward and report," she said. "They weren't able to get out of the home. People didn't also want to present to emergency departments because of the COVID-19 concerns.
"Once lockdown was lifted, we saw a resumption of people coming forward to seek support. It's been a pattern in the past couple of years."
Ms Hurley said supporting adult survivors of abuse was also significant.
"Pilot programs launched by NSW Health that have been running for the past two years recognised that adult survivors were falling through the gaps to timely responses in meeting their needs," she said.
"Adult survivors weren't often necessarily tended to in a responsive manner. They have more complex needs such as drug and alcohol and mental health concerns."
She said the programs examined ways of reaching out to people in need.
"It looked at integrative ways of responding to how we can support mainstream services for people who have come forward and may only acknowledge as an adult what happened to them," Ms Hurley said. "Whether it's meeting a medical forensic response or for those coming forward as an adult, support is crucial. There is lots of shame and stigma involved. The Royal Commission into Child Abuse recognised these issues."
Full Stop Australia, an organisation that promotes support for victims/survivors of sexual abuse, urges the new government to ensure people get the help they need, when they need it.
"In the wake of the #metoo movement and the leadership of Brittany Higgins and many others, it is time for survivors of sexual violence to finally be at the forefront of decision-making in this country," Chief Executive Officer of Full Stop Australia, Hayley Foster, said.
"We applaud Prime Minister Albanese, and his government, on their commitment to ending violence against women and children, through the adoption of all Respect@Work recommendations, 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave, hundreds of additional domestic violence frontline workers and the provision of more safe and affordable housing for women fleeing violence."
"However...the reality is that survivors of sexual violence have been forgotten by successive governments."
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