Sexual abuse survivor Ashleigh Rae is calling for better resources and greater mental health support for victims, noting one in three girls will experience sexual violence before the age of 15 and only 55 per cent of those will go on to complete Year 12.
As a victims’ advocate, Ms Rae noted the trauma of sexual violence impacted all areas of a survivor’s life. But an often overlooked and devastating repercussion was the effect it has on education.
“A little over half of all sexual abuse victims complete their entire schooling. Not only does the trauma rob them of their childhood, it also deprives them of their future,” Ms Rae stated.
She explained addressing the problem involved prevention, increased prosecution of sexual offenders, accessible crisis support, and long-term mental health assistance for survivors.
“Thirty-five per cent of female abuse survivors go on to develop a physical disability, while 13 per cent develop a psychological disability. Between the legacy of trauma and the lack of formal education, this results in 43 per cent relying on a government benefit or allowance to survive,” Ms Rae explained.
“Australia can do better. As a well-off society, we cannot let victims fall through the cracks. We owe it to ourselves as a nation to view sexual violence as a preventable act.”
Noting the effects of sexual violence rippled throughout an entire society, Ms Rae said in cold hard financial terms it cost the Australian taxpayer $22 Billion annually. It is not something we can afford to keep let happening she adds
The impacts of girls and women not finishing school cannot be underrated she adds. The biggest costs come from loss of productivity and quality of life said Ashleigh, it is the mental and unseen aspects of the abuse that stay with us and that affects all areas of life including finishing school.
Ashleigh is fighting for efforts to be channelled into a deeper conversation about violence against women, along with greater resources to prosecute offences and hold abusers accountable, and additional support for victims as they seek to reclaim their lives.
Ms Rae said better resources and education would assist those who suffered abuse to transition from victims to survivors.
As an abuse survivor herself, she explained holding perpetrators accountable, along with long-term therapy were critical for recovery.Ms Rae has been through this journey first-hand. In recent years, she has worked with a therapist, taken her case to court and won not once, but twice.
Now she is looking to assist abuse victims by advocating for them. She shares her story in the knowledge the road to survivor is not a journey that needs to be undertaken alone as a society we must join in.
About Ashleigh Rae
Ashleigh Rae provides a strong voice for survivors of sexual assault. After her own experiences of childhood rape and sexual assault by multiple offenders, she took her case to court and won not once, but twice.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Ashleigh Rae on 0466 984 210 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Personal Safety Survey 2016
Characteristics and Outcomes of Childhood Abuse
Department of Social Services
‘The Cost of Violence Against Women and Their Children in Australia’ prepared by KPMG 2016