Sex assault charges rise across region
An average of 74 historic sexual assault charges each year were laid in the Great Southern in the past eight years as more victims continue to come forward and report the crimes against them.
An investigation into historic sexual assaults in the region by the Albany Advertiser revealed the Great Southern police district led the way in the latest financial year statistics recording the most offences of any regional area.
In the six-month period from July to December 2017, there were 77 historical offences charged in the district, almost twice as many as the South West (43).
The Wheatbelt (31), Kimberley (30) and Goldfields (29) recorded less than half the Great Southern’s total.
In the 2015-16 financial year, the Great Southern recorded the highest historic sexual assault rate of any regional area with 105 offences recorded compared with 70 in the South West.
Since 2009-10, a total of 631 offences have been recorded.
An historic sexual assault is classified as historic if it is reported more than 90 days after the alleged offence occurs.
Great Southern police district Superintendent Dominic Wood said police were committed to investigating historic sexual assault complaints.
“We take all complainants extremely seriously and we investigate them thoroughly,” he said.
“It’s good there is trust and feel they are going to be taken seriously and investigated properly.
“It is encouraging from our perspective that people are confident enough to come forward.”
Child sex abuse victim Todd Jefferis, who brought an end to the crimes of serial paedophile Dennis McKenna, believes the Blaxell inquiry and resulting media attention into abuse at the State-run St Andrews Hostel in Katanning played a pivotal role in victims finding the confidence to come forward.
Mr Jefferis was a boarder at the hostel when he was groomed and abused for two years from when he was 15 years old and spoke up when he was 17 in 1990.
“To me that was throwing the first rock in the pond; it started with a few ripples and then it spread to the Royal Commission and now it’s becoming a discussion that people are willing to have,” he said.
“When I spoke up in 1990 and blew the whistle on McKenna it was just a discussion you would never have had and we copped a lot of s... for that. Now if you say something has gone on people take you seriously. Now we have built this confidence and we have got this out in the light and people are confident to talk about it because someone will now listen.”
According to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the average elapsed time for a survivor to disclose child sexual abuse is 22 years.
Mr Jefferis said the best outcome other than bringing an end to McKenna’s years of abuse, was that victims had avenues to report and confidence to come forward.
“I’m really happy about that and it’s probably the thing that brings me the most satisfaction is that while we brought down McKenna, to the point this conversation just continues to grow and as a result people feel they can talk,” he said. “That makes me feel great because that’s the silver lining in it and it’s the only silver lining in it really because the rest of it is s... and dealing with the ramifications on a personal level is s.... These people who do commit these crimes, they need to be brought down.”
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