Reports of sexual assaults to NSW Police have increased significantly in the past two years, even as a huge spike seen in March 2021 subsides.
Sexual assault reporting rose by 61 per cent in March as the country was gripped by a national conversation about violence against women, with Grace Tame named Australian of the Year and Brittany Higgins' rape allegation rocking politics.
The number of sexual assault complaints has risen 21 per cent year-on-year in the two years to June 2021, new data from the state's crime research agency reveals.
Half of the increase was due to adult victims coming forward, almost all of whom are female.
Women of all ages were responsible for the rise, but it was most pronounced for young women aged between 18 and 24, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research said.
Most of the assaults were committed by partners or ex-partners.
The trend is contrary to most other crime, which has remained stable or fallen over the two-year period.
Violent offending, like domestic assault and robbery, fell dramatically at the time of the state's first COVID-19 lockdown in April 2020. But it has since returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Many property offences have stayed below pre-pandemic levels.
Stealing, for example, is down 28.4 per cent in the past two years. Break and enter offences are down 16.6 per cent. Also trending downwards are fraud (11.5 per cent), stealing from a dwelling (9.8 per cent) and car theft (8.6 per cent).
The rise in sexual assaults shows a desperate need for reform, says Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia CEO Hayley Foster.
"We know increases in reporting can be a positive thing, in particular the increase in historical case reporting, but we need to make sure the system is equipped to deal with this," Ms Foster said.
"This means ensuring specialist sexual assault services can meet increased capacity, and that the path to justice is both safe and attainable."
The new crime data doesn't take into account the lengthy lockdown that began in Greater Sydney in June and later expanded to the entire state.
BOCSAR Executive Director Jackie Fitzgerald said crime trends will be significantly impacted by the star-at-home orders.
"We know from 2020 that (lockdowns) interrupt criminal activity and lead to sharp falls in many crimes," she said.
"The impact of the most recent restrictions will be closely monitored in the coming months as NSW residents gradually resume regular activities."
Australian Associated Press