Better support for sexual abuse victims under new training for first responders

A new federal grant awarded to Monash University will improve the way frontline workers and health professionals respond to victims of sexual violence.

The Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston, today announced the awarding of $4.5 million to Monash University for the development of an accredited training program for sexual violence responses under the Department of Social Services’ National Initiatives Program.

“When someone makes the brave and difficult decision to disclose they have experienced sexual violence it is vital that disclosure is handled with care,” Minister Ruston said.

“This investment will ensure that frontline workers receive the training they need to make sure they can best support people who have experienced sexual violence no matter where they are or how they are seeking help.”

Monash University’s Department of Forensic Medicine (DFM) will lead a consortium of agencies over three years to develop and trial practical training for health professionals and frontline workers. The training will enhance the recognition and response to disclosures of sexual violence.

With one in five Australian women experiencing sexual violence from the age of 15, Department of Forensic Medicine Head, Associate Professor Richard Bassed, said it was critical that frontline workers and health professionals know how to safely and appropriately respond when faced with disclosures of sexual violence or harmful behaviours.

“Improving frontline worker understanding of all forms of sexual violence and their ability to respond safely to disclosures, understand referral points and support victims is essential to improving community outcomes and reducing rates of violence,” Associate Professor Bassed said.

“Importantly participants will also be trained with the skills required to reduce further victimisation and re-traumatisation.”

The Department of Forensic Medicine will partner with specialist medical staff from the Melbourne-based Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM).

Consultation will be undertaken with agencies likely to receive disclosures from adult and child victims of sexual assault and with communities known to have increased vulnerability to sexual assault, to better understand their needs and circumstances.

“Our practice-based understanding will inform the development of training and related tools to assist in early intervention and trauma-aware care for individuals who have experienced sexual assault,” Associate Professor Bassed said.

Course participants will learn how to identify risk factors for sexual violence and how to elicit and respond to disclosures in culturally sensitive and appropriate ways. They will develop an understanding of referral pathways, protective support services and justice options. Each module will be supported with practical guidelines and assessment tools.

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