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The impact of sexual violence and abuse on victim-survivors and their families
By Hannah Pocock, Bravehearts Youth Advisory Council member
Sexual violence is, unfortunately, more common and prevalent than society would like to believe. An estimated 31,118 Australians reported being sexually assaulted in 2021, and shockingly, 61% of those victim-survivors who reported were under the age of 18 when the assault occurred. These statistics are horrific and are only a snapshot of the sexual assault and violence that occurs as so many incidents go unreported and people suffer in silence. It is important to remember that these statistics are real women, men, and children in our community who deserve and need support.
This month is Sexual Violence Awareness Month, and I thought I would share some of my thoughts. The reason why I am so passionate about preventing sexual violence and child sexual abuse, is because I have personally witnessed the devastating impact of these crimes. My family’s experience is not unique or special, and I naively thought that something as horrific as sexual abuse would never happen in our family. Although it’s been 5 years since a family member disclosed the abuse they had suffered, we still deal with the trauma every single day.
For the brave victim-survivor, not only do they have to deal with the abuse they suffered and disclosing it, but they also face the daunting process of reporting to police if they wish, and the possible criminal process beyond that. The systems in place that are supposed to protect, serve, and deliver justice, failed us immensely. And I doubt we are the only ones who have experienced this. The pursuit of justice and trying to hold the perpetrator accountable was so painful that it makes sense why victim-survivors don’t want to go through the process at all.
My family’s experience is why I am so motivated for change and passionate about raising awareness of sexual violence and abuse. Imagine a world where perpetrators are held accountable, the criminal justice process is trauma-informed and minimally re-traumatising as possible. Imagine a world where victim-survivors are believed from the outset and supported through the whole process. I hope that by sharing my story it helps others not to feel so alone. I hope that it can spark some real and definite change so no other victim-survivors and their families have to experience what my family did.
To all the victim-survivors: you are believed, you are worthy of support and healing, and what happened to you was not your fault. To all the families and supporters: you are important, you are valued and your story matters too.
Hannah is a fourth-year psychology student who’s passionate about child safety and protection. She has a keen interest in the Queensland justice system and how it can be reformed so victims of abuse are listened to, taken seriously and justice is given. She loves her casual job at a doggy day-care and enjoys reading in her spare time.