Alternative and confidential sexual assault reporting options: An analysis of informal reports of sexual assault made to a digital reporting tool in Australia
Dr Rachel Loney-howes1, Associate Professor Georgina Heydon2, Dr Tully O’Neill
1University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia
2RMIT, Melbourne, Australia
There has been an increased use of self-administered surveys and reporting applications developed by policing jurisdictions in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia as alternative and confidential reporting options for victims of and witnesses to crimes, including sexual assault. These tools help to support the documentation of experiences and to collect statements and information from witnesses without being formally interviewed by police. Sexual assault support services have also created self-reporting tools to connect sexual assault survivors with counselling services, as well as provide information to police. This article analyses the content of 483 reports of sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, child sexual abuse and various forms of sexual harassment, made to a digital reporting tool (DRT) developed by a rape crisis centre in Melbourne, Australia. These written digital reports were made in a confidential and informal capacity, with all de-identified reports distributed to relevant policing jurisdictions to support intelligence gathering. Based on an analysis of the de-identified content, this article suggests the DRT functioned as an important gateway in connecting survivors with appropriate therapeutic support when disclosing sexual assault and had a demonstrable capacity to provide the police with information. There was also scope for survivors to make formal reports should they wish to do so. However, further research with police, sexual assault support services and survivors is needed to develop a full understanding of the potential of alternative and confidential informal sexual assault reporting options.
Keywords: sexual assault, digital reporting tools, informal reporting options, intelligence gathering, therapeutic support
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