In the past financial year 1041 sexual assaults were reported to police in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie regions – that is 20 sexual offences a week.
Women’s domestic violence service providers are seeing an average of 98 referrals a week in 2021, statistics, they collectively say, are way too high.
By lending a local voice to a global event this Friday 29 October, organisers of this year’s Reclaim the Night Hunter are hoping to raise awareness of what is now a very serious issue.
“Australia has one of the highest rates of reported sexual assault in the world with one in five women experiencing such violence,” Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia CEO Hayley Foster said.
“And yet, 1.5% of sexual assaults result in a criminal conviction for the perpetrator.
“It’s up to all of us to put a full stop to gender based violence in our homes, our community communities and our workplaces.
“Join us Friday (29 October) to demand safety and freedom from violence for all women, girls and the LGBT community.
“Enough is enough. It’s time to put a full stop under gender based violence.”
Samaritans Foundation case manager of Brighter Futures Colleen Mullins agrees.
“These statistics are too high and women in our community are experiencing abuse and assault too frequently,” she said.
“We call on men in our community to speak out publicly when their mates or colleagues make sexist or chauvinistic comments and to work at changing our culture around consent and family violence.”
Ms Mullins is urging Hunter residents to join the annual campaign by taking a selfie with a sign provided on the Reclaim the Night website.
“Sadly, we are unable to march because of this pandemic, however we hope that the message of stopping sexual assault and violence against women can be shared through this means,” she said.
“So often women feel afraid to be out alone at night. We want to create a community where women can feel free to gather and go about their lives safely.”
Australia’s first Reclaim the Night march took place in 1978.
“Newcastle and Lake Macquarie have a proud tradition of joining this international movement to demonstrate our support for essential women’s services, demand justice for survivors and to spread the message that no woman is ever to blame for male violence against her,” Ms Mullins told the Newcastle Weekly.
Reclaim the Night is part of a global protest for women’s right to be free from sexual violence and abuse, occurring annually on the last Friday in October.
Hunter residents are being asked to stand with a Reclaim the Night poster they have printed from the group’s collection, or one they have created themselves, and take a selfie using the hashtag #reclaimthenighthunter.