A SEXUAL assault crisis care unit will open in the Wimmera within weeks.
Barwon Centre Against Sexual Assault Wimmera Counselling Service has been upgraded to reduce the need for Wimmera sexual assault victims to travel to Ballarat or Melbourne for forensic examinations.
Chief executive Helen Bolton said the region previously lacked a dedicated venue for medical examinations.
“In the 2013-14 financial year, we had 14 crisis care episodes,” she said.
One examination was performed by an accredited doctor in Horsham.
“The rest went through to Ballarat,” Ms Bolton said.
Service co-ordinator Jo-Anne Bates was concerned the journey added to the victims’ distress and could dissuade people from seeking justice.
“Rural people should not be penalised,” she said.
Upgrades to the Wimmera Counselling Service, opposite Horsham Police Station, include additional security and an examination room.
The organisation also wants to recruit another four people to staff the Wimmera crisis care unit after hours.
Ms Bolton said the staff would receive extensive training and support.
She said the crisis care unit would have to open without some items on its wishlist, because of their expense.
A $30,000 colposcope would prevent children from having to travel for examinations.
Ms Bolton said Barwon CASA was still seeking grants to buy one.
“Close to half of our clients are under 18 years old,” she said.
Ms Bolton said ideally the unit should be equipped to examine patients of all ages.
“Our oldest client last financial year was more than 80 years old, and our youngest was five,” Ms Bolton said.
The Wimmera Counselling Service had 188 new cases in the 2013-14 financial year.
Three quarters were women, and the remaining quarter were men.
The service also counselled 26 children for sexually abusive behaviours.
Ms Bates said people could call her on 5381 1211 for more information about job vacancies or contributing to the upgrade.
Barwon CASA also operates a 24-hour sexual assault crisis line. People can call 1800 806 292 for assistance.