EDITORIAL: Windale false report can’t shake belief in those who report sexual assault, abuseOn 08/07/2019 by admin
It’s often been said that one of the manychallenges facing those who have been sexually assaulted is the fear that others won’t believe them. The concept ofbelief played a key role in the historic national apology to child victims of sexual abuse at Parliament House on Monday.
“It reflects all of the sentiments that I have expressed on behalf of the Australian people, this parliament and our government, and I table that and, as I do, I simply say I believe you, we believe you, your country believes you,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at the close of his address.
It’s a sad twist of fate that on the same morning NSW Police issued a statement saying a reported daylight, publicsexual assault of a young girl in the Hunter last week did not happen.
The 14-year-old raised the alarm on Wednesday after she was reportedly dragged into the bush only a few metres from a cluster of homesat Windale and sexually assaulted at knife point. The attack was described as “brazen” and “shocking” by senior police, who threw a significantamount of resources into their effort to catch the man the teenager described to them.
Police from the State Crime Command’s Sex Crimes Squad were enlisted to help Lake Macquarie police withthe investigation into the allegations. Neighbours expressed shock and fear after the reported attack, many with children of their own, wondering how something so repulsive could happen a stone’s throw from their backyards.
But on Monday morning, police labelled it a “false report” andsaid officers had spoken with the teenager and support services were being offered to her.
As news broke, reactions ranged fromanger toconcern for the teenager.
It’s important to remember that we are talking about a 14-year-old –a child. Most of us have no real insight into her life or circumstances.Few would have argued, based on the facts that emerged last week, that any delay to the investigation was an acceptable option.
It is vital anynext step is driven by clarifying the consequences of a false report rather than any punitive urge.Ultimately, it’svital that believingthe brave peoplewho step forward and report instances of sexual assault or abuse takes priority over preservation of resources. Both authorities and the public must ensure that the benefit of the doubt stays with those who need it most.