What are the Victorian CASAs?

The Victorian (Australia) Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASAs) 1 are non-profit, government funded organisations that provide support and intervention to women, children and men who are victim/survivors of sexual assault. They also work towards the elimination of sexual violence through professional and community education, informing government policy, advocating for law reform and facilitating research to increase community understanding of the nature and incidence of sexual assault.

Organisation

There are 15 CASAs across the state of Victoria and the Victorian Sexual Assault Crisis Line 2 (after hours). These offer free, confidential 24 hour emergency or crisis care for victim/survivors of sexual assault. This includes crisis counselling support, access to medical care and legal services as well as counselling support for adults who were abused in their childhood.

Being believed

Blaming the victim is a common way of dealing with situations about which people feel uncomfortable. A research study of community attitudes to Child Sexual Assault commissioned by the Department of Human Services 3 (then known as ommunity Services, Victoria) in 1991 showed one in four people believe the child should take the blame for sexual abuse in some cases.

One of the strongest messages from the survivors' experiences is how effectively this attitude of blame can silence victims and allow the assaults to continue.

As one survivor points out: "You feel it's your fault. I would get the blame. People would say; "What did you do to cause this? I was the youngest and the lowest on the ladder. It was always going to be turned around to be my fault. I didn't have a Counsellor or anyone at school to tell." 4

The Victorian CASAs believe it is important all victim/survivors that come to their centres are met with belief and compassion when they tell of their experiences and that they receive assistance and support.

Advocacy

CASAs provide advocacy in relation to legal choices, physical health concerns and safe accommodation. They provided over 145,000 counselling services to victims of sexual assault in the last 12 months. Over 80% of clients were female. Approximately 30% of clients requiring a service were under the age of 18 years. 5 Advocacy/support is also provided for complainants required to give evidence in criminal proceedings.

Education

CASAs provide Training and Community Education to many audiences through the State such as;

  • The Step Program 6 SECASA - A program which investigates strategies that help children and their families who have suffered the effects of abuse, cope more effectively.
  • The Respect, Protect, Connect Program 7 SECASA & WHISE 8 - An injury-prevention focused workshop based in secondary schools in the South East region of Melbourne.
  • Personal Safety Success Training 9 Mallee Sexual Assault Unit 10 - This program is a tool to assist and aid with promoting and training protective behaviours to children, so that they may be safe.
  • AWARE Sexually Abusive Behaviour Treatment Services 11 for children and young people with problem sexual behaviours and sexually abusive behaviours. This Program has been developed in conjunction with the new legislation in the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 12. The Children's Court 13 can now place children aged between 10 -15 years on a therapeutic treatment order who then attend treatment for up to 12 months. CASA members actively support community campaigns aimed at public education and awareness raising on the issues surrounding sexual assault such as Reclaim The Night (also known as Take Back the Night) 14 and No means No 15.

Policy

In 2007/08 CASA members worked with the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development 16 to develop policy and protocols in order to improve responses to sexual assault allegations 17 made in Victorian Government Schools. A number of CASAs across Victoria have formally joined with Family Violence Services 18 to improve service provision and responses to victims of family violence in keeping with State Government policy of integrating service provision and the expectation that key services such as domestic violence, sexual assault, police, courts and housing services will work together both at a strategic and service delivery level.

The Victoria Police (VP) Code of Practice for the investigation of Sexual Assault continues to be re developed after consultation with CASAs. The VP Sexual Offences & Child Abuse units 19 are staffed by experienced and qualified police members specially trained to assist with responding to and investigating adult sexual assault and child abuse. CASA Forum representatives continue to provide training to these units.

In Victoria your nearest CASA can be contacted on 1800 806 292.

References

  1. Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault
  2. Victorian Sexual Assault Crisis Line SACL
  3. Victorian Department of Human Services
  4. It Happened To Us: Women Talk About Child Sexual Abuse by Human Services, 3rd. Edition, June 2000.
  5. CASA Forum 2007/2008 annual report
  6. The Step Program SECASA
  7. Respect, Protect, Connect Program SECASA and WHISE
  8. Women's Health in the South East (WHISE)
  9. Personal Safety Success Training Program
  10. Mallee Sexual Assault Unit
  11. AWARE program
  12. Children, Youth and Families Act 2005
  13. Children's Court of Victoria
  14. Reclaim the Night Australia
  15. No means No
  16. Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
  17. Responding to Allegations of Student Sexual Assault - Procedures for Victorian Government Schools
  18. Family Violence Services
  19. Victoria Police Sexual Offences & Child Abuse Units
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