Sexual assault victims in regional areas face a number of barriers in getting timely help.
Sexual assault victims in regional areas face a number of barriers in getting timely help. Claudia Baxter

The other problem Gympie rape victims face

A LACK of forensically trained nurses in Gympie and the Wide Bay is only part of a much larger problem facing victims of sexual assault, one expert has said.

In the wake of revelations the lack of support is forcing victims to travel an hour or more to the Sunshine Coast for help, Laurel Place manager Karren Aspinall said even the local support which was available could pose a problem.

"Privacy is a huge issue,” Ms Aspinall said.

"In small regional towns victims may know people who may be required to respond to their needs following sexual assault and this may be a barrier to victims seeking support.”

Domestic violence generic hands up
Victims are being forced to travel more than an hour from Gympie for support. Pexels

Ms Aspinall, who manages the service which supports sexual violence victims in Gympie, the Sunshine Coast, Moreton Bay and Murgon, said national data indicated at least 75 per cent of sexual assaults went unreported.

And being subjected to long delays when they did come forward only compounded the problem, she said.

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"Victims of sexual assault and rape are highly traumatised when they present to police or hospitals and lengthy delays only adds to their distress,” she said.

There were other problems victims in regional areas faced beyond a lack of forensically trained staff, she said.

Executive Director of Laurel Place, Karren Aspinall
Karren Aspinall. Nicky Moffat

Ms Aspinall said the best solution was a co-ordinated 24-hour centre for victims.

"This means having trained forensic nurses, police trained in responding to sexual assault and specialist counsellors who can support victims from the initial report right through to court,” she said.

"A co-ordinated response ensures that victims only need to make one phone call and a response from all services is then initiated.”

Ms Aspinall said the State Government had been working to establish support networks.

"We are hopeful that together we can bring about positive change that will ease the burden for all victims of sexual violence,” she said.