Sexual Violence and the Law Talk held on campus

Alex Gervas reports on a recent Sexual Violence and the Law talk.

Alex Gervas
1st March 2020
Image: @ithappensherencl on Instagram

On Monday the 24th February, Rianna Curran, a support group officer for It Happens Here Newcastle, gave a presentation on the law in cases of Sexual Assault and Violence.

The presentation was meant to take place during the “Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week,” in the first week of February, however it had to be postponed.

The primary purpose is to educate on and campaign against events of sexual violence while “giving victims a voice”.

Rianna Curran, 21, is a 2nd-year law student and a sexual violence activist. When explaining the reason for leading this talk, Rihanna said: “As a law student, I felt like it was important for me to do a talk about the legal issues […]. And it’s an aspect of the law I’m very passionate about.”

The talk raised 3 main points: Attrition, rape myths and the reporting and legal process.

Attrition involves the loss of cases from the level of police to the level of conviction. Curran explained the effect of Attrition in Sexual Violence cases through data that illustrates the gap between the number of victims and the number of convictions. According to SARC centre: “Approximately 85,000 women experience rape, attempted rape or sexual assault by penetration every year.” However, only 5.7% of the cases reported end in a conviction of the perpetrator.

But, Curran emphasised, throughout the presentation, the impact and influence myths surrounding rape can have on juries, victims and society. According to End Violence Against Women, for instance, “24% think that sex without consent in long-term relationships is usually not rape”.

Curran explained how these myths affect the possibility that victims will report, as well as explaining some of the reasons behind the justice gap behind the convictions for sexual violence. “It’s such a low conviction rate for such a hideous crime,” said Curran. “There is an imbalance between how the victim is treated and how often the perpetrator is let off.”

When talking about the legal proceedings, Curran stopped to talk about reports and the different ways that a victim can come forward. For instance Rape Crisis Centres were highlighted. These centers can store evidence of an assault up until seven years after it has occurred so that victims can come forward anytime they choose.

For the court, it is essential to have physical evidence, whether this is pieces of clothing, medical exams or even texts. Even then, the jury will focus on whether the victim “sounds believable.”

Curran ended the presentation offering support outlets, such as It Happens Here Peer Support Group for female survivors in university, saying: “Remember you’re not alone.

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