Sexual assault a mystery

By MADELEINE DOHERTY and SAMANTHA HEALY

POLICE have been speaking to a man regarding the attempted sexual assault of an 89-year-old Murwillumbah woman earlier this week.

Inspector Greg Carey from Tweed Heads Police would not confirm if the man was a suspect, only saying he had been helping police with their inquiries.

On Tuesday this week a man broke into the 89-year-old woman's home while she was asleep.

The man, not believed to be known to the victim, broke in and attempted to sexually assault her.

Despite being half blind and almost deaf, the woman fought off her attacker.

Police are still waiting on the analysis of vital evidence found at the crime scene.

The attack has shocked the Murwillumbah community.

Dr Antonia Quadara from the Australian Institute of Family Studies told the Daily News it was difficult to understand the moti-vation behind sexual assaults on elderly women.

Dr Quadara said these sort of actions were part of the continuum of sexual violence against women in Australia, and unfortunately very little research had been done on the issue.

While some women were sexually assaulted by strangers, 80 per cent of all sexual assaults of women were by someone they knew.

"Stranger assaults, like the one that occurred in Murwillumbah this week, while it might fit the stereo-type of sexual assault, is in fact the minority of the types of assault on women," Dr Quadara said.

"Physical, cognitive and communicational impairments of elderly women can make disclosure of sexual assault difficult."

She said it was commonplace for those working in the area of sexual assault prevention and service provision to find that all women of all ages, and for a variety of factors, find it difficult to disclose the ex-perience of sexual assault.

This was exacerbated for older women, as highlighted in a recent survey.

The survey revealed that 100% of the 102 older women interviewed did not use a sexual assault service following a sexual assault.

Dr Quadara said the reasons given by the women as a barrier to reporting assaults included finan-cial dependence on the attacker, lack of response after telling GPs or police about the assault, rural isolation and a sense that no-one would appreciate their situation.



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