According to the journal review Sexual Assault, one in five women experiences sexual violence; an often a terrifying, humiliating, and traumatic experience that can impact physical and psychological health. Furthermore, the Queensland Sexual Assault Network (QSAN), reveals that in 2019 there were 4,859 recorded victims of sexual assault in Queensland alone, with the overwhelming majority being female. With 75% of sexual assaults never being reported, this statistic is likely to be much higher. Although Queensland crime statistics reveal the numbers of sexual offense cases has risen since 2010, funding for victims is insufficient.
The Queensland Government reveal on their website that they believe sexual violence to be an unacceptable violation of human rights, and that they are “committed to preventing and responding to all forms of sexual violence in our communities.”
However, Di Macleod, Director of the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence (GCCASV) says, “Funding for our Sexual Violence Program is inadequate, and our Women’s Health and Wellbeing Program is the lowest funded program in the state! Why isn’t the state taking responsibility for increasing the core funding for this issue?”
Although the Queensland Government has passed on a short-term increase in funding as part of the Federal COVID-19 response, the funding is still not sufficient to deal with the current demand and there are serious issues with the short-term funding model. Funding for GCCASV, which expires by the end of 2021, covers the cost to pay counsellors, who in turn offer free counselling sessions to survivors. Belinda, a sexual assault survivor who was provided counselling from GCCASV says, “It would be so devastating for so many women if the service stopped. I immediately felt so comfortable and safe with my counsellor and the rest of the staff at the centre. I was made to feel so welcome, and was even invited to holiday events like Christmas with other women attending the centre. I went to the centres free yoga and meditation activities, as well as vision board creation days, which really helped me to be able to focus on the positive things in life and move on from my trauma.”
In addition to counselling, GCCASV’s Sexual Violence Program also provides crisis support, practical support through related legal and medical procedures, and therapeutic and educational groups to victims and survivors of recent and/or past sexual violence. GCCASV’s Women’s Health & Wellbeing Program provides counselling, as well as support and advocacy services to women who have experienced gender-based violence in their past and are now safe and post-crisis.
Di Macleod says:
Ms Macleod continues, “We desperately need donations to continue to pay the four counsellors who will lose their jobs. Unfortunately, two wonderful staff have already needed to start looking for other employment due to job insecurity.”
GCCASV has recently experienced increased contact via email, phone and social media. They have over thirty victims on a waitlist, which is expected to climb once funding is cut. Ms Macleod continues, “Many of the women who come in here will not have the capacity to pay it forward, but supporters of the agency would.”
Ms Macleod hopes that the federal government will now contribute further funding to prop up Queensland Domestic and sexual violence services. However, GCCASV really need a State Government commitment ASAP to increase core funding long-term.
To pay it forward to the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence, who pay it forward to survivors of sexual assault DONATE HERE