“We have to look at what happens in court”: Reports of sexual assault in NSW increase 42 per cent

“We have to look at what happens in court”: Reports of sexual assault in NSW increase 42 per cent
Image: Gorodenkoff, Shutterstock


Content warning: This article contains references to sexual assault 


Sexual assault reports have risen by 42 per cent in NSW in the past five years, along with significant increases in domestic and non-domestic assault, and vehicle theft.

These results were released just two weeks after it was found that no legal action was taken for about 85 per cent of reported sexual assault cases. 

“The increase is mostly driven by a rise in adult sexual assault victims (up by 62 per cent or 1,606 additional incidents),” said Jackie Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR). 

“Historical child sexual assault reports also increased by 92 per cent or 1,137 additional incidents.”

Speaking to City Hub, Fitzgerald said one of the factors that seemed to influence the increase was the ability to report online.

“Police made this sexual reporting option available in January 2023, so people can just jump online and file a police report. About half of the increase is the increase through that option,” she said.

“So while it’s fair to say that at least some of that increase is due to reporting, we can’t rule out the actual increase.”

Fitzgerald also pointed out that though there are more public discussions around the issue, “they’re not positive discussions and high-profile examples don’t necessarily encourage people to come forward.”

Brittany Higgins’ case is one such example. She alleged in March 2019 that she was raped by Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann in Parliament House.

Lehrmann denied raping Higgins and pleaded not guilty to a charge of sexual intercourse without consent.

The criminal trial was abandoned due to juror misconduct, and the second did not proceed due to prosecutors’ concerns for Higgins’ mental health.

In April, Justice Michael Lee handed down his decision about Lehrmann’s defamation case against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson, finding that on the balance of probabilities, Lehrmann raped Higgins.

But only 40 hours after the decision was handed down, The Australian ran a story quoting legal experts that suggested Higgins would have to repay the $2.445 million in compensation paid out to her, due to Justice Lee that Higgins had made false representations to the government in her compensation settlement.

Fitzgerald said to City Hub, “The whole process of reporting sexual assault can be traumatic for victims, and many victims have been critical of the experience of reporting to police.”

This often leads to poor outcomes at court, she continued.

“We can’t just send more matters to court. We have to look at what happens in court and the experiences there.”

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