Letter to NSW Police About Sexual Assault Communications

This letter was posted on December 7, 2018 to two NSW Police offices. I received confirmation of their arrival on December 12 and December 13 of 2018. I heard from the Commissioner on December 21 and have a meeting with him mid-way through January.

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NSW Police Commissioner Michael Fuller,

In 2015, I was a victim of sexual assault. When I reported my rape to an officer at the Police Station in Town Hall, the female officer assigned to take my statement told me she was “excited” as it was her first rape case. I was asked to “lurk him on Facebook” in the kitchenette at the station. After searching your database for a PDF to guide her through the reporting process, the woman resorted to phoning an anonymous officer who guided her through the procedure over the phone. I was then directed to another station where I repeated my statement to two male officers in a small room with the door closed. According to your website, I would be assigned a specially trained officer who deals with victims of sexual assault. Of the three I encountered face-to-face and the anonymous officer on the phone, I don’t know if any were “specially trained”.

I have interviewed over 100 women who have had experience reporting sexual assault in NSW. The most common words used to describe how they felt after reporting was “terrible”, “disappointed and confused”, “distressed”, “traumatised”, “like a stupid little girl” and “like there was no point”.

I wonder how many women and men build the courage to report sexual violence only to leave your stations re-victimised and re-traumatised. I will not stand for a system that fails our survivors and prevents justice from being served to the vile perpetrators of these crimes.  

In your NSW Sexual Assault Strategy Progress Document published in December of 2016, you have recognised that these issues exist and are rigorously evaluating them. You have established a Domestic and Family Violence and Sexual Assault Support Council. You have a Sexual Assault Expert Group. You have multiagency initiatives and advice lines and government services. All necessary and immensely helpful services if executed appropriately and respectfully by trained officers and professionals. I have faith.

But why is this not communicated? Why is progress undocumented for the layman? The public need to know how and why you have changed, because current victims are only hearing stories of the failings of your system and many are choosing to stay silent because of it.  

The last time you mentioned reporting services available for victims of sexual assault on your Facebook Page was in June of 2017. Approximately 1.8% of Australian women have experienced sexual violence since then.

You have a following of over 1.1 million. You are a trusted authority, and the communication is lacking from trusted authorities about what constitutes as sexual violence and what the reporting process entails. I won’t bore you with the possibilities of digital communications at the moment, but with 50% of the Australian population logging onto Facebook each day, you need to be front and centre, communicating the support that is available.  

I am writing this letter asking for a reassessment of your digital communication strategies. Our law enforcers must be model educators. I argue that the best stage for the NSW Police to educate is social media. For an example, look at the effectiveness of using memes as a vehicle to educate young people about road safety on your own Facebook. Of the people you surveyed, 83% said it made them “more informed about police work”.

Use the possibilities of platforms such as Facebook to educate others about the appropriate way to treat others in the sexual context. Tell me how justice will be served to those who don’t. When I left the police station after reporting my assault I was told “nothing will be done”. I want you to tell me what you can and will do. I want you to show me why we should trust you, and what kind of environment awaits us when we no longer feel burdened by silence.

I would love the opportunity to meet and discuss this with you. I have a number of solutions collated by the brave women and men who shared their stories. I am writing not for an automated response from your Customer Care Department or a curtesy phone call. I am writing for a resolution and I represent the voices of thousands.  

Kindly,


Ruby Claire.