The family of the murdered mother Tara Brown says an initiative from the Gold Coast police will help rebuild trust between officers and victims of sexual violence and domestic violence who need their help.
- Gold Coast police will in the coming weeks send a female officer to a service for sexual violence and domestic violence
- The initiative aims to break down barriers for victims seeking help and encourage survivors to file complaints
- Stepfather of murdered mother Tara Brown says it will help victims feel supported and heard by police
During the initiative, a female Gold Coast police officer will be stationed at the Gold Coast Center against sexual violence each week in an attempt to break down barriers and increase access to justice for survivors.
The service provides counseling and support to women who escape sexual violence in the home and in the family, and has for years advocated improved responses from the police on charges of sexual violence and domestic violence.
In April, a report of the Gold Coast police’s response to the alleged murder of three-mother Kelly Wilkinson was ordered after it was revealed that she had sought help from police on repeated occasions prior to her death.
Officers were also criticized for their handling of complaints from the murdered Gold Coast mother Tara Brown, who was run off the road and shot dead by her ex-partner in 2015.
Fabiana Palhares, Lordy Ramadan and Karina Lock are three more Gold Coast women who each died at the hands of their partners or ex-partners in recent years, while Doreen Langham and Hannah Clarke were killed further north in Logan and Brisbane.
Breaking down barriers
The barriers that victims of domestic and family violence face when seeking support and justice also exist for survivors of sexual violence – many of whom are often victims of both crimes.
Gold Coast Center for Sexual Violence founder and director Di McLeod said she hoped the introduction of a female police officer at the service would help solve the problem.
“We thought, why not bring the police to them where they are well and they can talk to the police officer in that environment?
“It’s a really important issue of access to justice, we really thank the Gold Coast Police District for being flexible enough to address the issues that we’ve been discussing for a while.”
Changing trust between victims, police
Jonathan Gardner, stepfather of the slain Gold Coast woman Tara Brown, says such initiatives are important to ensure victims feel supported and believed.
“I think anything that puts more police at the forefront of preventing and supporting domestic violence and sexual violence should be good,” Gardner said.
“Through our foundation [The Tara Brown Foundation] we still hear stories of women who report to police stations, seek help for protection from domestic and sexual violence and are not taken seriously – and sometimes feel they are wasting police time.
“It’s not uncommon and I think there’s some trust that needs to be repaired and it’s a good step because it shows commitment and it shows that they [Queensland Police] will correct this and get it right. “
Female victims prefer female officers
Ms McLeod said the introduction of a female officer at the center would allow the service only for women to “continue to honor that space”.
She said that women who were sexually abused were usually attacked by men and that some women did not feel comfortable talking to a male officer “so detailed about what has happened to them”.
“For others, gender is not an issue, but because it’s a women’s service, we would start with … the most security we could afford.”
Ms McLeod said she was convinced the initiative would help survivors move forward and hoped other services would adopt a similar idea.
Detective Chris Ahern said officers wanted survivors to know they were being heard.
“We know that well-supported victims have an easier time crossing the investigation and the trial and … the criminal justice system,” he said.
“So this opportunity for us to actually integrate one of our detectives into the center to be available to those seeking advice from the center is really a good initiative.
According to Queensland Police, all female detectives in the Gold Coast district will participate in the project and be placed with the support agency in a rotating role.
The project will be rolled out in the coming weeks in October, which is the month for awareness of sexual violence.