Sexual Assault and Family Violence

Sexual assault within a family violence context


Sexual assault is often experienced within a family violence context.

Safe Steps, Victoria’s 24/7 family violence response line, found that 28% of women who used their services in 2016-2017 reported that they had been sexually assaulted by the perpetrator.

The intersection between sexual assault and family violence is well-established:

  • The 2016 Personal Safety Survey noted that for 66 per cent of people who had experienced sexual assault in the last 12 months, this was perpetrated by a current or former partner, boyfriend or girlfriend or date.
  • For those who have experienced sexual violence since the aged of 15, 87 per cent was perpetrated by a known person, including by intimate partners, other family members, friends, housemates, acquaintances and colleagues.

The reform will continue to address the connection between sexual assaults on women and children and family violence and its root cause in gender inequity and power imbalance.

Royal Commission sexual assault recommendations

The Royal Commission recognised that sexual assault is a common form of family violence and often an indicator of heightened family violence risk. As with other forms of family violence, intra-familial sexual assault is underreported, and women and children are overwhelmingly the victims.

The Royal Commission made two recommendations aimed at greater coordination and improved collaboration between family violence and sexual assault services.

While the recommendations are not yet fully implemented, progress is being made. Sexual Assault Services Victoria (previously Victorian Centres Against Sexaul Assault Forum) provides support and intervention to people who have been sexually assaulted. It is a prescribed organisation within MARAM, the new multi-agency risk assessment framework.

Strengthening our response to sexual assault

A joint project overseen by Sexual Assault Services Victoria and Domestic Violence Victoria has found that specialist family violence and sexual assault services complement one another and are often interconnected:

  • They both provide different specialist services, sometimes to the same client, and a high level of collaboration already exists across the sectors.
  • They share underpinning frameworks including a gendered understanding of family violence and sexual assault and commitment to trauma informed practice.
  • These commonalities provide a solid foundation for further work that recognises the occurrence of sexual assault in all its forms, including in the context of family violence.

Key initiatives

1. Sexual assault strategy

In recognition of the range of forms that sexual assault manifests, and the complex service system interrelationships, a comprehensive sexual assault strategy will be developed. It will be informed by victim survivors and developed in partnership with the sexual assault and family violence sector.

2. Interface with The Orange Door network

Sexual Assault Services Victoria and Domestic Violence Victoria will shortly complete a joint project exploring how they can better interface with The Orange Door network to provide integrated support to victim survivors of family violence where sexual assault has been a feature of their experience.

3. Intermediaries Program

Successful pilots of an Intermediaries Program delivered assistance to people with a cognitive impairment who are complainants in sexual offences. $2.2 million was provided in the 2020/21 State Budget to continue the Intermediaries Program in 2020/21.

4. Sexual Assault Support Services

Following funding increases in 2019/20, access to sexual assault support services have improved to help meet increased community demand.

Funding to boost the capacity of sexual assault services was also provided as part of the Government's response to coronavirus (COVID-19).

As part of Victoria's recovery from COVID-19, the Government has also announced $8.1 million to build the sexual assault and family violence workforce, supporting coordination of up to 240 traineeships across the state.

5. Support for Aboriginal Victorians

Specific initiatives to support Aboriginal people, families and communities who have experienced sexual assault, including:

  • a training package and practice tools to support the Aboriginal workforce in responding to disclosures of sexual abuse
  • 3 Aboriginal designed and led sexual assault service pilots for victims and survivors of sexual assault, including child sexual abuse

6. Sexually Abusive Behaviours Treatment Service

We will continue to roll out the Sexually Abusive Behaviours Treatment Service, which is available for all age groups up to and including 17-year-olds, providing interventions for children and young people displaying harmful sexual behaviours.

7. Victoria Police

Policing Harm, Upholding the Right: Victoria Police Strategy for Family Violence, Sexual Offences and Child Abuse 2018-2023 takes an integrated approach to responding to family violence, sexual offences and child abuse, recognising the links between these crime themes and their cumulative harm.

1. Victorian Law Reform Commission

The Victorian Law Reform Commission is reviewing Victoria's laws relating to rape, sexual assault and associated adult and child sexual offences to identify opportunities to:

  • embed and build upon previous reforms to sexual offence laws
  • identify barriers to reporting and resolving sexual offences
  • make recommendations to improve the justice system's response to sexual violence

The Commission’s report is expected to be delivered to the Attorney-General on 31 August 2021.

2. The Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2020

The Justice Legislation Amendment (Supporting Victims and Other Matters) Bill 2020 was passed by Parliament in November 2020.

  • The Bill amends the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act 1958 to make it easier for victim survivors of sexual offending to tell their stories, and to give permission for others (for example, family members or the media) to do so, without court involvement.
  • The reforms will also make it easier for victim survivors to control how and when their stories are told, by allowing them to tailor their permission (for example, a victim survivor may give permission to publish their name, but not their image).
  • Following further consultation with victim-survivors, family members of deceased victims and other stakeholders, further amendments to the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act 1958 will be developed and presented to Parliament in 2021 to amend the law relating to identification of deceased victims and other related issues.

Summary of activities to 2023

Family violence reform Rolling Action Plan 2020-2023 - Sexual Assault Activity Summary
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