South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault & Family Violence

Advocacy issues

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Section three

Aims of the section

This section aims to provide information about advocacy support and an outline of the processes and procedures which should be in place when a person who has an intellectual disability reports sexual assault.

When a person with an intellectual disability reports sexual assault

If the person is a registered client of the Department of Human Services Disability Services and they report to a staff member:

The staff member must follow the Departmental Instruction on Reporting Allegations of Physical and Sexual Assault, which requires:

  • that the most senior staff person on duty ring the police;
  • advise the client that the allegation will be reported to the police;
  • ring the police;
  • ensure the client is safe;
  • write a serious incident report.

The departmental instruction covers the following situations:

  • When a client is the alleged victim.
  • When a client is the alleged perpetrator.
  • When a staff member is the alleged perpetrator.
  • When the staff member is the alleged victim.

What the police should do

When the police are notified of a sexual assault of a person with an intellectual disability they should:

  • ring a CASA;
  • arrange for a Forensic Physician to attend (if it is a recent assault);
  • arrange for an Independent Third Person to attend for the interview/statement;
  • inform the client what else will happen (i.e. charges etc.).

The role of an independent third person

An Independent Third Person (ITP) Program is auspiced by the office of the Public Advocate and provides assistance for a person with a mental impairment during the police interview process. ; Mental Impairment pertains to any individual with an intellectual disability, psychiatric illness, acquired brain injury or dementia; An ITP is a volunteer who has been registered with and been trained by the Office of the Public Advocate; The role of an ITP is to provide support to people who have a mental impairment during the police interview; An ITP will:

  • provide emotional support;
  • participate in the interview in an interpretive capacity by assisting the communication between the police and the person with an intellectual disability;
  • ensure that the person understands his or her rights and the caution;
  • remain independent and objective at all times;
  • speak up if the person with an intellectual disability is being disadvantaged during the police interview.

The following should be noted in relation to the function of an ITP in a case where the person with an intellectual disability has been sexually assaulted:

  • The Police are in the best position to determine when an interview should be conducted.
  • ITPs will attend the obtaining of evidence from a victim of sexual assault at the bequest of the Police.
  • If the person is hospitalised following a sexual assault, the ITP is not to be utilised to determine whether or not the person consents to the obtaining of forensic evidence.
  • An ITP does not provide counselling to the victim or determine whether the person is fit for interview.
  • At the conclusion of the police interview, the ITP may refer the person to OPA for advocacy.

(the above information was provided by Maree Withers, ITP Coordinator)

NB A person can nominate a friend or other support person as an independent Third Person if they wish.

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