South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault & Family Violence

What are the Victorian CASAs?

Tags: Australian Crisis Services, Child Sexual Abuse, Counselling, Family Violence, Rape, Support Services

Author: South Eastern CASA

The Victorian (Australia) Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASAs) 1 are non-profit, government funded organisations that provide support and intervention to women, children and men who are victim/survivors of sexual assault. They also work towards the elimination of sexual violence through professional and community education, informing government policy, advocating for law reform and facilitating research to increase community understanding of the nature and incidence of sexual assault. This work is our common foundation.

There is diversity among our services, demonstrating independence in service delivery model developments and responsiveness to the unique geographic and community needs of our regions. Some CASAs respond to women and children seeking support when experiencing family violence. Some CASAs are providing services for children under 10 with problem sexual behaviours and young people 10-14 with sexually abusive behaviours. Also, a small number of CASAs work with young people with sexually abusive behaviours through to 18 years of age. This place based model has allowed for innovation and agility across the state and within regions.

Organisation

There are 14 CASAs across the state of Victoria and the Victorian Sexual Assault Crisis Line 2 (after hours). These offer free, confidential 24 hour emergency or crisis care for victim/survivors of sexual assault. This includes crisis counselling support, access to medical care and legal services as well as counselling support for adults who were abused in their childhood.

Being believed

Blaming the victim is a common way of dealing with situations about which people feel uncomfortable. A research study of community attitudes to child sexual assault commissioned by the Department of Human Services 3 (then known as Community Services, Victoria) in 1991 showed one in four people believe the child should take the blame for sexual abuse in some cases.

One of the strongest messages from the survivors' experiences is how effectively this attitude of blame can silence victims and allow the assaults to continue.

As one survivor points out: "You feel it's your fault. I would get the blame. People would say; "What did you do to cause this? I was the youngest and the lowest on the ladder. It was always going to be turned around to be my fault. I didn't have a Counsellor or anyone at school to tell." 4

The Victorian CASAs believe it is important all victim/survivors that come to their centres are met with belief and compassion when they tell of their experience and that they receive assistance and support.

Advocacy

The CASAs provide advocacy in relation to legal choices, physical health concerns and safe accommodation. They provide over 150,000 counselling services annually to victims of sexual assault. Between 75 and 80% of clients are female. Approximately 30% of clients are under the age of 18 years. 5 Advocacy/support is also provided for complainants required to give evidence in criminal proceedings.

Education

The CASAs provide Training and Community Education to many audiences throughout the State such as;

The Respect, Protect, Connect Program 6 SECASA - An injury-prevention focused workshop based in secondary schools in the South Eastern region of Melbourne.

Mallee Sexual Assault Unit 7 and SECASA 8 provide specialist programs for people with a disability

AWARE Sexually Abusive Behaviour Treatment Services 9 for children and young people with problem sexual behaviours and sexually abusive behaviours. This Program has been developed in conjunction with the legislation in the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 10. The Children's Court 11 can place children aged between 10 -15 years on a therapeutic treatment order (TTO) who then attend treatment for up to 12 months.

CASA members actively support Community Campaigns aimed at public education and awareness raising on the issues surrounding sexual assault such as Reclaim The Night (also known as Take Back the Night) 12.

Policy

CASA members worked with the Victorian Education Department 13 to develop policy and protocols in order to improve responses to sexual assault allegations 14 made in Victorian Government Schools. A number of CASAs across Victoria have formally joined with Family Violence Services 15 to improve service provision and responses to victims of family violence in keeping with State Government policy of integrating service provision and the expectation that key services such as family and domestic violence, sexual assault, police, courts and housing services will work together both at a strategic and service delivery level.

The Victoria Police (VP) Code of Practice for the investigation of Sexual Assault 16 continues to be re-developed after consultation with CASAs. The VP Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams (SOCIT) 17 are staffed by experienced and qualified police members specially trained to assist with responding to and investigating adult sexual assault and child abuse. CASA Forum representatives continue to provide training to these units.

In Victoria your nearest CASA can be contacted on 1800 806 292.

References

  1. Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault
  2. Victorian Sexual Assault Crisis Line SACL
  3. Victorian Department of Human Services
  4. It Happened To Me: Women Talk About Child Sexual Abuse by Human Services, 3rd. Edition, June 2000.
  5. CASA Forum 2007/2008 annual report
  6. Respect, Protect, Connect Program SECASA
  7. Personal Safety Success Training Program
  8. Making Rights Reality
  9. AWARE program
  10. Children, Youth and Families Act 2005
  11. Children's Court of Victoria
  12. Reclaim the Night Australia
  13. The Department of Education and Training
  14. Reporting concerns about student sexual assault
  15. Family Violence Services
  16. Victoria Police Code of Practice for the investigation of Sexual Assault
  17. Victoria Police Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams
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