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150 sexual assault victims a year only tip of the iceberg

Date

Phillip Thomson

Registered nurse Tasha Lutz from the Canberra Hospital sexual health clinic stands in one of the examination rooms holding a DNA kit that is used to gather evidence.

Registered nurse Tasha Lutz from the Canberra Hospital sexual health clinic stands in one of the examination rooms holding a DNA kit that is used to gather evidence. Photo: Colleen Petch

IN AN average week a sexually assaulted woman will turn up at the Canberra Hospital and receive an emergency contraception.

As India erupts into a wave of protest about violence against women, figures show even the leafy haven of Canberra is not immune from such violence.

''Our service sees victims over the age of six years old,'' says Tasha Lutz, 30, a registered nurse at the Canberra Hospital's Forensic and Medical Sexual Assault Care unit.

''It's definitely difficult, but we do our best.

''You need a cool head under pressure, which is what most nurses need.''

Sexual assault is a violent, humiliating and traumatic experience and victims often feel a range of conflicting emotions.

They can feel relieved the assault is over, but also fearful - things which seemed safe or familiar beforehand no longer appear as secure.

Victims may also feel powerless and ashamed.

Forty-one emergency contraceptions were done in the latest financial year, ACT Health reveals. Many who turn up at the hospital have already had an emergency contraception.

About 150 sexual assault victims are treated each year and 95 per cent of them are females.

Ms Lutz says that statistics suggest the number of recorded sexual assault victims is only the tip of the iceberg. Many victims do not report the assaults.

The sexual assault care unit provides a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service for victims.

This ongoing care generates about 1000 visits annually.

The care provided includes blood-borne virus screening, follow-up meetings, immunisation for hepatitis B and administering of Gardasil if required. Gardasil is a vaccine that protects against sexually transmitted strains of HPV or human papillomavirus.

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