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Our say: "Sexual assault is an issue we take extremely seriously"

Detective Superintendent Rod Jouning responds to yesterday's Herald Sun article on the police response to sexual assault.

It was disappointing to read yesterday’s article in the Herald Sun regarding Victoria Police’s response to victims of sexual assault, which was based on a research project that pre-dates our Sexual Assault Reforms, and does not reflect how police are operating today.

Of particular concern is the impact that this could have on the confidence of a victim of sexual assault to speak up, which we know can be a distressing and difficult experience.

Sexual assault is an issue we take extremely seriously. 

The last five years have seen a huge structural and cultural shift in the way police investigate sexual assault cases. 

With this, there has been an increase in the number of sexual assault reports over recent years, indicating that more victims are gaining the confidence to come forward to police. 

The formation of the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams (SOCIT) model in 2009 has significantly improved the police response to victims of sexual assault and child abuse. SOCITs are teams of specialist detectives who are specially trained to investigate the complex crimes of sexual offences and child abuse and provide a more victim centred response.

In association with other agencies, SOCITs deal with a case from the time of disclosure, through the investigation process and then on to court. SOCITs work closely with our partner agencies such as Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) and Child Protection to ensure victims’ welfare needs are met.

This model also means that victims are able to establish an ongoing relationship and trust with one or two police members and don’t have to continually retell their personal experiences. 

There are now 27 SOCITs across Victoria, and the detectives within these teams are required to complete a tailored selection process.  

SOCIT detectives undertake a mandatory four week training program which has been devised using a strong evidence-base about police responses to sexual assault and child abuse, particularly the forensic interviewing of victims and offenders. 

This new specialist training is being recognised internationally as world's best practice, and Victoria Police has now trained more than 450 detectives. 

We have also established multi-disciplinary centres (MDCs), which bring together SOCITs, Child Protection, CASA and forensic services under one roof. There are currently three MDCs in operation and three more will be rolled out in the next 18 months.

Sexual assault has a devastating impact upon victims and it is not helpful to suggest that victims will not receive support from police. 

Victoria Police has worked very hard to improve our response to sexual assault to ultimately increase confidence of victims and ensure that the correct support is available.

In fact, with the SOCITs and specialist crime units such as the Sexual Crimes Squad, Taskforce Astraea and Taskforce Sano all dedicated to responding to sexual assault and child abuse, Victoria Police has never been in a better position to respond to this issue. 

We encourage victims to come forward and tell their story, whether that be to initiate an investigation or to provide information and intelligence.

If they do not speak up, we can never deal with it and bring perpetrators to justice.

 

Rod Jouning
Detective Superintendent, Sexual and Family Violence