By Luke Voogt
New communication specialists could help rape victims achieve justice, according Barwon Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA).
Barwon CASA’s Janice Watt said the changes could prevent trials not proceeding due to the victim being too traumatised to appear in court.
“What we do know is it’s incredibly difficult to go through the court process. We’re very supportive of any new measures that can support victims in court.”
In November 2015 three men allegedly raped a 14-year-old girl at St Albans. But charges against them were withdrawn earlier this year when the victim was too traumatised to appear in court.
“To have to re-live that (experience) through the court process is often something victims don’t want to put themselves and their families through,” Ms Watt said.
“The court process is a very adversarial one. Often (the victims) can be made to feel ashamed of what happened and blame themselves.
“Often with sexual assault there are no other witnesses. Men who perpetrate the crime do it deliberately so there are no witnesses.”
Ms Watt said rape could make victims feel more violated than other crimes.
“It’s an intensely personal experience. You’re hardly going to feel as ashamed about your car being stolen.”
The State Government will spend $2.6 million introducing intermediaries to help victims give evidence to police and in court, similar to the UK’s legal system.
“There are some good indications from the UK,” Ms Watt said.
“Any additional support can only be for the better. We would hope those people would have particular skills working with young people.”
State Government will spend a further $25.9m, with $6m to investigate systemic issues victims experience and $18.9 million to recruit more social workers.
Anyone who has experienced sexual assault can phone Barwon CASA on 5222 4318.