While, as ACT Minister for Women Yvette Berry has said, Tuesday's report on sexual assault prevention and response is a hard document to read, it is also the first step in making things better.
That is why Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Reform Steering Committee chair, Renee Leon, commended the Territory government for its courage in commissioning the investigation on which the document was based.
While many of the findings are damning, and the statements by survivors are traumatic in the extreme, there is no reason to believe a similar deep dive into these issues in any other Australian jurisdiction would have yielded different results.
Knowledge is the first step on the road to change. Ms Leon's committee has given the ACT's legislators a lot of information to work with at a time when women's safety, sexualised abuse and domestic violence have all been under scrutiny.
The report itself is dedicated to the courageous victim survivors who shared their experience of seeking therapeutic assistance and justice; often to little or no avail. It is to be hoped that when it comes to responding to the document Canberra's MLAs will try to match their courage by implementing all 24 of its recommendations in a timely fashion.
Sexual violence is, as the report makes clear, a secret epidemic that hides in plain sight with nearly a quarter of Australian women and one in 20 Australian men having experienced it.
"For almost half of these men, their experience of sexual violence was as a child," it states.
"For women sexual violence continues to be a threat throughout their lives. The overwhelming majority of perpetrators of sexual violence against women, men and children are male".
This pattern of violence and misogyny dates back millennia to a time when female partners and children were literally the property of the male and, in some cultures, could be killed without adverse public comment.
It is deeply entrenched within all cultures and is reflected in the patriarchal attitudes that often persist amongst police forces and the judiciary which all too often appear to treat these offences with a greater degree of scepticism than other crimes.
Such attitudes and responses are major contributors to what the report identified as a major failure of "the system" to support and to assist victims and to bring perpetrators to justice.
"Too often, the response by the community, government agencies and the justice system in the ACT [and arguably elsewhere across the country] fails to meet survivors' needs for healing and justice and can be retraumatising rather than supportive," it said.
The report calls on the ACT government to commit to a "wide ranging, long-term strategy aimed at preventing sexual violence [by] calling out and seeking to change attitudes that enable and perpetuate sexual violence".
Key recommendations include the establishment of an ongoing consultation program with victim survivors to drive change; additional training for sexual violence responders; improved resources for, and integration between, agencies which respond to sexual violence; a greater emphasis on the needs of the Indigenous community; the establishment of a sexual violence data collection framework and sweeping reviews of, and reforms to, agencies working in this space.
While cultural change may take a decade or more to bring about, many of the recommendations seem capable of being implemented quite quickly.
Having taken steps to rip the scab of this epidemic of violence, misery and injustice, the ACT government should not delay action on this grievous issue.
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