Horsham detective backs bid for sexual assault centre

THE lack of an accredited venue for forensic medical examinations in the Wimmera is hindering police and compounding trauma to victims.

Wimmera Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team Detective Acting Sergeant Guy Menhennitt said the effects of Wimmera people having to travel to Ballarat or Melbourne for physical examinations were significant.

"The whole distance factor is another obstacle preventing it from being a decision that's easy to follow through with," he said.

"It's hard enough for victims to come forward as it is, but to have any obstacle placed in their way is detrimental to their recovery and the whole investigation process."

On average, one person calls for a forensic medical exam every two months.

But Det Acting Sgt Menhennitt said demand fluctuated.

"I can think of an example from just over a week ago, when I had a child and their mother travel two and a half hours to attend their nearest 24-hour police station," he said.

Reporting the matter, driving to and from the nearest paediatric forensic medical officer in Ballarat and doing the examination took more than seven hours.

Another family had to drive themselves from the Wimmera to Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital.

Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team members drive people to Ballarat or Melbourne to give evidence, whenever possible.

If Wimmera people want to give evidence, police refer them to Barwon Centre Against Sexual Assault Wimmera Counselling Service near Horsham Police Station.

Det Acting Sgt Menhennitt said the region would greatly benefit from a proposal to upgrade Barwon CASA's Horsham offices to a sexual assault crisis care unit, equipped to do forensic medical examinations.

Barwon CASA chief executive Helen Bolton said the upgrade would cost about $30,000.

"If we had the money, we could do it within a couple of weeks," she said.

The unit would save Wimmera people hours of travel, although children might still have to travel.

A doctor qualified by the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine to examine adults is based in Horsham but there is no forensic medical paediatrician.

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