Why did sexual assaults spike in NSW?

The number of sexual assault incidents recorded by NSW Police jumped dramatically in March 2021, up 46% from February 2021 and 65% from March 2020. The sharp increase most likely reflects a temporary increase in victim willingness to report sexual assault due to heightened public attention on sexual assault and consent (rather than an increase in prevalence).

The spike aligns with saturated media coverage of a number of high profile sexual assault allegations which came to light in late February and March 2021.

 The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) report released today attributes  the unusual rise to “a temporary rise in victim willingness to formally report sexual violence”. 

BOCSAR Executive Director, Jackie Fitzgerald, said the spike in reported sexual assault incidents was remarkable and preliminary April data suggests reports have since come back down. “Typically only around 10% or 15% of adult sexual assault victims report to police.  The March 2021 increase shows that, under the right conditions, more victims will come forward. More now needs to be done to make sure that victims who reach out are appropriately supported.”

Sexual assaults involving victims aged 13 to 20 years accounted for two thirds of the increase and the vast majority involved female victims. The rise in sexual assault reports was as much to do with an increase in recent contemporary assaults as it was related to reports of historical offences. 

You can read the full report here

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