Distrust of law enforcement a barrier to justice and support
Current alternative reporting options available in Australia sit directly with police, but Heydon said distrust of law enforcement was a barrier for many victim-survivors to report incidents, especially in more vulnerable communities.
“There’s a lack of confidence that police will handle their cases with sensitivity. Victim-survivors are also reluctant to go through a sexual assault trial due to the way they are treated during the process,” she said.
“Victim-blaming attitudes are still persistent in society, meaning victim-survivors may not feel their experience was ‘serious enough’ to report, or they may blame themselves, creating further barriers to reporting and seeking help.
“There are also many communities who face barriers to approaching the police, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, LGBTQIA+ people, and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
“Due to these issues, we only have an insight into a fraction of the sexual assault experienced in the Australian community, and many are left without support after their experiences.”
Data protections need to be considered
The report, funded by the Australian Institute of Criminology, found there was a preference to shift alternative reporting options to sexual assault support services, but Heydon said the security of confidential data needs to be considered.
“A rape crisis centre, for example, could host an alternative reporting option and send information onto the police for investigation, but these services are typically underfunded and understaffed,” Heydon said.
“Without proper long-term funding, these crisis groups are unlikely to be able to house a secure database of reports.”
“Whoever is collecting this data needs to be in a position to protect the security of the data, which could be where blockchain comes in.”
Heydon said victim-survivors also need full transparency on how their information is going to be used.
“Data security is paramount, and users need to be given clear information about how their information will be used, who will have access to the information provided, and where it will be stored.
“They also need to have the opportunity to indicate how they want their data to be used.”