In an Australia-wide search, analysts could find no records of intervention studies – where theory had been scientifically applied to evaluate programs or services that were working on the ground. They also found most studies involved secondary sources rather than direct interviews with victims or perpetrators.
JCU’s Dr Janya McCalman led a team commissioned by a sexual assault counselling service to investigate how it could perform more effectively in a regional community, after the service found that many Indigenous sexual abuse survivors were not using its service.
She said despite funding being available for other Indigenous issues, including family violence, the issue of sexual assault seemed to be overlooked. “There have been a lot of high-level reviews and policies, but not intervention studies that involve talking to clients to find out the effectiveness of services provided.”
The paper said Indigenous Australians had a disproportionately high number of risk factors, reflected in a high prevalence of sexual assault. Female Aboriginal children in NSW, for example, were 2.5 times more likely to be at risk of sexual assault than non-Aboriginal children.
It said many Indigenous victims were reluctant to go through official channels as services were often staffed by members of family groups, leading to a concern that sensitive health issues would not stay confidential.
Dr McCalman said things needed to change. “What is needed are programs for people suffering sexual abuse based on the principles learned from available studies, and that these programs are properly evaluated. Without that, we are working in the dark and what we are doing is not evidence based.”
Dr Janya McCalman
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