26 September 2023

New Police option to aid assault victims

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The NSW Police Force has unveiled an enhanced online option for reporting victims of sexual assault to provide information without having to take part in a formal police interview.

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said that while police always encourage victims of any crime to make a formal report, they acknowledge that victims of sexual assault often did not wish to speak about their experiences, nor speak with police and go through the legal process.

Commissioner Webb said the Force’s Sexual Assault Reporting Option (SARO) had been in existence since 2012 and was now accessible through the online Community Portal, allowing victims to report a sexual assault without any obligation to participate in further lines of inquiry.

She said this replaced the old process of printing and completing a 14-page document and emailing the State Crime Command’s Sex Crimes Squad.

“For many victim-survivors, a police investigation and court process are the farthest thing from their mind and often they feel further traumatised through the process,” Commissioner Webb said.

“Victims can report via SARO anonymously without further contact from police, or they can elect to be identified and request that police follow up in certain circumstances,” she said.

“We know that sexual violence continues to be under-reported, and we hope that by providing victims with alternative reporting options we will be better placed to understand sexual violence in the community, assist victims, and hold offenders accountable.”

Commissioner Webb said the SARO online form also allowed victims to report their sexual assault in English or 11 other languages; upload images such as screen shots of social media or dating app profiles; respond to SARO questions tailored to their experience; request follow-up contact from a police officer; download their SARO report from the site; and receive a SARO reference number.

The enhanced SARO questionnaire can be accessed at this PS News link.

Support for people impacted by the issues discussed in this article is available from 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 and Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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