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Covering the Central Highlands
Central West Queensland

Community

25 February, 2021

Stigma around sexual assault decreasing

DESPITE sexual assault being a taboo subject in Australia, the issue is increasingly being discussed in the open. “This is due to perpetrators being taken to court in some cases and the public becoming more educated about the subject,” Emerald Neighbourhood Community Centre and Rockhampton Women’s Health Centre, counsellor Karen Briggs, said. “Often people come in looking for support for another issue and it later it comes to light that they have also been sexually abused.” One woman’s dedication to supporting victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, in addition to other community support activities, was one of the reasons she was recently nominated for the Australian of the Year award. Emerald Neighbourhood Centre Director Jeanelle Horn has devoted her life to empowering victims to make educated choices with their lives. “I understand and have a passion to support and supply information to enable people to have a more empowering life that’s filled with safety,” Ms Horn said. At the center, people who have been ‘traumatised’ are provided a safe, confidential space where they can tell their story and explore their feelings with somebody who will not judge or condemn them. The center works in conjunction with the Women’s Health Centre Rockhampton, to support victims of sexual assault and domestic violence which are inter-related in some cases. “Domestic violence goes to another level when there has been a sexual assault within a relationship,” Ms Horn said. Sadly, victims of sexual violence include children with statistically one in five children sexually abused in Australia. Domestic violence is an issue in the Central Highlands. “My family mediation efforts would involve, and continue to involve, helping families to communicate through relationship breakdowns,” Ms Horn said. However, both Mrs Briggs and Ms Horn believe that that the perpetrators of violence and sexual assaults have sometimes been victims themselves. “When you’ve been brought up with a father who beats you or rapes you, you think that is the norm and don’t know any differently,” Mrs Briggs said. The support the centre provides goes beyond providing a safe place to be heard. Emerald has no shelters for victims of sexual assault or violence, so the Emerald Neighbourhood Centre continues to provide practical support beyond a sympathetic ear. “We have good relationships with local businesses and can help arrange accommodation in motels as well as arrange transport for relocation through local travel agencies,” Ms Horn said. Despite the often-traumatic circumstances of their occupations neither of the women get worn down by the situations that they are dealing with. “The violence doesn’t bring me down, in fact it makes me more determined to help the people affected by the trauma,” Ms Horn said.

By Mel Frykberg

Jeanelle Horn and Karen Briggs say sexual assault in Australia is slowly being destigmatised. PHOTO: Mel Frykberg

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