Giving voice: Women tell of abusers' tactics

Giving voice: Women tell of abusers' tactics

Media release — 8 December 2010

A study of women sexual assault survivors by the Australian Institute of Family Studies sheds light on the circumstances, the contributing factors and tactics used by offenders.

Detailed interviews with 33 victims from across Australia found that their perpetrators targeted them and built up a relationship of trust with them, used alcohol and drugs to control the situation, and later reinterpreted the assault as consensual.

Australian Institute of Family Studies director Professor Alan Hayes says the steps these perpetrators undertake to realise the opportunity to assault are deliberate and calculated and offenders then take active steps to conceal or excuse the offence.

"The women in the study described the perpetrators as charming, controlling, talkative and engaging challenging the stereotype of a serial, predatory sex offender," Professor Hayes said.

"The study found the sexual assault took place in a range of intimate and familiar settings with the majority of offences committed by partners, husbands, friends, colleagues and acquaintances."

The study's authors Ms Haley Clark and Dr Antonia Quadara said the study showed that the perpetrators made deliberate choices to win over the trust of their targets and to set up a controlled environment to enable them to commit the sexual assault.

"It's important that we hear from women and learn from their experiences about what strategies and tactics they believe offenders use against them to assist in the development of prevention initiatives," Dr Quadara said.

"One in six Australian women are sexually assaulted from the age of fifteen and we know that stranger rape represents only a small minority of these assaults.

"The study found that the tactics used by these offenders include winning the trust of their victims, the use of alcohol and drugs and a reinterpretation of events later.

"For example, what looks like 'nice' behaviour - sending friendly text messages, requesting another date or offering a cup of tea in the morning - were tactics perpetrators used to purposefully conceal their offences.

"The women saw how they had been targeted, how alcohol and drugs were used and that the manipulation of their trust was a strategy designed to set up the sexual assault.

"Perpetrators used a range of strategies to reinterpret the assault after the event in some cases playing the role of suitor asking to see the victim again and providing a version of what had happened, saying that they had enjoyed the experience, casting it as a consensual sexual encounter.

"The findings from this research demonstrate the need to consider the strategies used by perpetrators in reducing the incidence of sexual assault.

Survivors of sexual assault or those with concerns about sexual assault can contact the national advice line 1800 737 732.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) is a free and confidential, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, professional national counselling service for any Australian that has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

 

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