Katherine sexual assaults three times national average

Many sexual assaults go unreported. Picture: supplied.
Many sexual assaults go unreported. Picture: supplied.

The rate of reported sexual assault in Katherine is more than three times the Australian average.

In the past year there have been 36 sexual assaults in Katherine, that is three each month.

The offence rate in Katherine for the past year is 343 per 100,000 people, compared to the Australian average of 92.

Sexual Assault Referal Centre Katherine and Darwin manager Prue Boylan said it is hard to compare statistics on sexual assault.

“It is difficult to get a handle on sexual assault data,” Ms Boylan said.

“It is hard to get accurate numbers, some people go straight to the hospital to seek medical management and do not disclose the assault.”

Ms Boylan said it was important for people in Katherine to know victims are able to seek help without having to make a formal report to police.

“Adults do not realise they can get a medical response, nobody can force an adult to report to police but we can support them through it,” Ms Boylan said.

“What is most paramount in our minds is to make sure you are medically okay.

“At the moment we have one counsellor and one Aboriginal sexual assault worker in Katherine but we are looking for another counsellor at the moment,” she said.

William Milne from the Australian Bureau of Statistics said nationally more than four in five sexual assault victims are female.

"Females aged between 15 and 19 years were seven times more likely to have been a victim of sexual assault compared to the overall population,” Mr Milne has said.

Ms Boylan said there was help available for both male and female victims of sexual assault in Katherine.

“We see predominately females but we do see males as well, we have a male Aboriginal sexual assault worker in Darwin who is able to travel to Katherine,” Ms Boylan said.

The centre provides victims with a range of options and supports them through the entire process.

“If you are an adult you go to the hospital and are seen by a trained doctor who can perform a forensic medical exam for police, if that is what you want,” Ms Boylan said.

“If a trained forensic doctor is not available they will be taken to Darwin, but it is their choice.

“We also have trained counsellors who can support victims and let them know more information if they want a forensic response or would like medical management instead.”

Ms Boylan said  child victims who have suffered an acute sexual assault,  will be seen by a specialised pediatrician in Darwin.

“However they can receive ongoing counselling in Katherine, it is best to call the Katherine number and they can advise people on what they can do,” she said

Ms Boylan said she believed many sexual assaults are not reported.

“People are unsure about the type of response they will get.

“They are fearful as a lot of sexual assaults are committed by someone they know and they do not want to speak up.”

A spokeswoman from the Attorney General and Justice department said the department did not have the capacity or time to provide more detail on sexual assaults in Katherine such as the time of day attacks occur or if victims are known to offenders.

“It is worth noting that sexual assault offences in Katherine are comparatively fewer in number and so will tend to fluctuate by larger percentages than more numerous offences,” the spokeswoman said.

“This means that publicity surrounding high profile events such as the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, or the Royal Commission into Child Protection and Youth Detention, may periodically trigger higher percentages of people reporting the crime than might otherwise occur.”

Meanwhile in Tennant Creek sexual assaults have increased by 400 per cent in the last year.

Twenty sexual assaults were reported between May 1, 2016, and April 30, 2017, compared to four the previous year.