Throughout much of the world, Australia included, several unintended consequences have resulted from the reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, including growth in the unemployment rate, job losses and adverse psychological effects, such as depression and anxiety.
Based on newly released figures, there has also been a sharp uptick in reported sexual assaults across New South Wales.
According to data recently updated by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, sexual assaults rose appreciably in Blacktown and Sutherland in March 2020, compared to the same period two years earlier, up 16.6% in the former (49 incidents) and nearly 51% in the latter (38 incidents).
The upward trend was similar statewide, with recorded sexual assaults jumping almost 8% over the same 24-month span.
Increases in domestic assaults, robbery as well
Across the board, meaning virtually all other aspects of violent crime, police were alerted to more instances than they have in the past, including domestic assault (up 4.1%) and robbery with a non-firearm weapon (10.5%).
Jackie Fitzgerald, executive director of BOCSAR, noted that these figures represent a snapshot of the ramifications related to the COVID-19 crisis response.
"We know that the social distancing measures which commenced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have had a significant impact on the NSW Criminal Justice System," Fitzgerald explained. "The full extent of this impact will be analysed in a forthcoming BOCSAR publication."
Police call on survivors to reach out
On the same day as this latest BOCSAR report was published – 4 June – a five-part video campaign was made available to the public, The Guardian reported. Launched by the NSW police, the initiative encourages anyone affected by sexual assault to come forward and speak to someone they trust.
Delia Donovan, interim chief executive at Domestic Violence NSW, noted in a statement that the surge in sexual assaults may be underestimating the actual total.
"The difference for COVID-19 is the social isolation and stay-at-home measures that were in place have significantly reduced victims' options and ability to seek help, Donovan said, as reported by The Guardian. "[This] in turn could lead to an underreporting in police figures."
NSW Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec stressed to the newspaper the importance of consent can not be overemphasised enough. There must be a mutual understanding before engaging in any relations, with no room for doubt or inference.
If you or someone you know may have been sexually assaulted, speak to the proper authorities immediately – but don't forget that you may also be entitled to civil damages for your pain and suffering. Contact Gerard Malouf and Partners today to learn more.