A study of women sexual assault survivors by the Australian Institute of Family Studies sheds light on the circumstances, the contributing factors
Insights into sexual assault perpetration
The Giving Voice project adds to our understandings of sexual offending by asking victim/survivors how the sexual assault(s) they experienced happened; what factors they thought facilitated it; and what strategies, behaviours and tactics perpetrators used to offend against them. Building the evidence on how sexual assault occurs, and particularly the strategies used by men to perpetrate, can assist in the development of prevention initiatives.
This research sheds light on how interpersonal, situational and social contexts can overlap when a sexual assault occurs and how individual men control, manipulate or exploit the opportunities afforded by these overlapping contexts.
Most significantly, this research revealed the very ordinary situations in which sexual assault occurs - and the often very ordinary, trusted and familiar men who perpetrate it. Public debate about sexual assault, particularly following high profile incidents demonstrates a lack of understanding about who perpetrators are and how they offend, with the compulsive, predatory sexual offender imagined as the typical offender. The findings from this project challenge this view and provide an important starting point for public education initiatives about sexual offending.
Authors and Acknowledgements
This research relied on 33 women victim/survivors who generously shared their expert knowledge and experiences. We extend sincere thanks and gratitude for the contribution they have made to the knowledge of sexual offending.
The Giving Voice project began under the leadership of the previous Coordinator of the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault (ACSSA), Dr Zoë Morrison. Former Research Officer Cameron Boyd played an integral role in setting up the project and contributed significantly to the literature review contained in this report. The contributions of both are gratefully acknowledged.
ACSSA's Senior Research Officer Haley Clark undertook the fieldwork, analysis and writing of Insights into sexual assault perpetration: Giving voice to victim/survivors' knowledge. The timely completion of the project and the strength of women's voices throughout are due to her diligence, commitment and high standards of research ethics. Members of the ACSSA team - Bianca Fileborn, Deb Parkinson, Rachel King - and the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) library staff ably assisted Ms Clark throughout the project and added additional insights to the key findings.
Senior research leadership and support within the Australian Institute of Family Studies has also been central to the project. Thanks particularly to Dr Daryl Higgins, General Manager (Research), for his enthusiasm, support and intellectual guidance. Thanks also to current and former ACSSA reference group members Dorinda Cox, Keran Howe, Renee Kyle, Lesley Laing, Gaby Marcus, Zoë Morrison, Vanessa Swan, Caroline Taylor, David Tully, and Karen Willis, for their knowledge, expertise and support. Many other individuals have also provided support, guidance and encouragement, including workers at sexual assault and other support services, who dedicated time in supporting participants to retell their stories. Finally, thanks to the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs for having the vision and commitment to commission this work.
Dr Antonia Quadara
Coordinator, Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault
Clark, H., & Quadara, A. (2010). Insights into sexual assault perpetration: Giving voice to victim/survivors' knowledge (Research Report No. 18). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.
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