Mater reminds us to recognise, respond, refer and record abuse this Sexual Violence Awareness Month

Warning: This article contains information about sexual and domestic violence which some readers may find distressing.

Across Queensland last year, more than one-third of sexual assaults occurred in the context of domestic and family violence[1] – meet the Mater People on a mission to change these statistics.

During October we recognise Sexual Violence Awareness (SVA) Month – raising community awareness about sexual violence and promoting support options available to people affected by sexual assault and sexual abuse.

This year’s theme, ‘Start by believing,’ is a strong message that echoes a global movement to transform the way we respond to victim-survivor disclosures.

‘Start by believing’ acknowledges that after disclosing, victim-survivors can be subject to disbelief, interrogation, victim-blaming and minimisation of their trauma.

Mater Hospital Brisbane Specialist Project Officer Rebecca Latham works in the Social Work team specialising in Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) and is one of the specialists working to assist those who have dealt with sexual violence.

“Sexual violence is a particularly destructive form of harm; the act simultaneously causes physical, sexual and psychological damage and is a painful betrayal of security and trust,” Ms Latham said.

“The shame associated with it means it often goes unreported and rates of conviction suggest very few perpetrators face legal consequences.”

Funded by Mater Foundation, the Addressing Domestic Abuse (ADA) project is a state-wide initiative that is currently working with Mater People and external specialists in the DFV space to ensure all health professionals are up to speed on the breadth of recent DFV and sexual assault reforms occurring across Queensland.

“There are numerous sexual assault reforms being introduced in Queensland that have an impact on the support we provide, including the recent Amendment Bill introduced this month to adopt affirmative consent[2],” Ms Latham said.

Leveraging Mater’s diverse clinical specialists with a range of backgrounds, ADA aims to navigate DFV and sexual assault disclosure.

“We want to influence the entire health ecosystem to provide greater support and protection for victim-survivors with increased accountability for perpetrators and invest in the early detection of and sensitive responses to DFV and sexual assault.”

Mater People can help make an impact by registering to attend ADA training to boost your confidence in recognising, responding to, referring and recording domestic, family and sexual violence here.

Queensland Sexual Assault Helpline (live chat, anonymous contact option)


Pictured: Sabrina Singh, Stacey Lees, Dr Alex Prins, Dr Chris Carlson and Rebecca Latham.

[1] (Government, 2023)

[2] (Counsel, 2023)

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