Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Sexual Assault Report Anonymously (SARA)

By Jessica Wooley

In 2013 we launched our first phone application called Sexual Assault Report Anonymously (SARA).

The idea for SARA came after a particularly awful crime in Melbourne where a woman named Jill Meagher was stalked, raped and murdered in 2012. Her assailant was on parole at the time of the attack. This man had harassed other women in the same location but these had gone unreported.

In November 2012 SECASA manager Carolyn Worth was interviewed by our national broadcaster, the ABC, about the Jill Meagher case. It was suggested that a way was needed for witnesses and victims to report information about sexual assault, but anonymously. She promised that SECASA would provide something – and do it by the following February.

The primary purpose of SARA was to help witnesses and victims report assault as it happened, and straight afterwards. This data is passed on to police so they can identify hotspots and for intelligence gathering purposes.

The App included a number of mobile phone features such as the ability to use the GPS to pinpoint a location, the ability to record then attach an image, video or audio file to the report, automatic filling in of the date and time and users could swipe through colour swatches to select the hair and eye colour of the person being reported.

There were a number of difficulties with it being an Application and so in 2014 it was transferred to the mobile friendly website which it remains today. Since it began in February 2013 we have received over 1800 reports of sexual assault that have not been reported to police. These reports are passed on to police by SECASA. If the person who made the report leaves their contact details, a SECASA counsellor will contact them and discuss what they would like to do next – engage with a counsellor, engage with police or nothing further. Some say they just wanted to tell someone, some would like to speak with a counsellor but most would like to speak with police. In this case SECASA finds out the name of the detective who will be handling their case and putting the two in touch.

Across the 2017/18 financial year, there were 604 reports received on the SARA website [LINK]. This is 366 more than the 2016/17 financial year. Feedback from police is that SARA information has assisted in catching serial rapists, substantiated prior reports about child molesters and given police vital intelligence about persons of interest. SARA is the only anonymous reporting site which will take reports from anywhere in Australia. It is totally owned, operated and funded by SECASA.

Key facts:

  • Australian studies indicate that between 80 and 90 per cent of sexual assaults are not reported to police, with barriers to reporting including shame and humiliation following sexual assault, fear of revisiting trauma, and fear of not being believed (Daly and Bouhours 2010, ABS 2012, Rotenberg 2017; Heenan and Murray 2006; Gavey and Schmidt 2011; Rich 2014). 
  • The first contact victim-survivor has with the criminal justice system plays a key role in determining whether they proceed with a formal complaint (Jordan, 2004). 
  • SARA provides victim-survivors the opportunity to be placed in contact with a police officer, where a counsellor from SECASA will facilitate the contact. 
  • There has been a 27% increase in SARA reports since the start of the #MeToo campaign which started in October 2017 and a 62% increase since the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child abuse released its findings on 15 December 2017.

From 2013-2016:

  • 75.8% of reports were self-disclosures. 
  • 88% of offenders were reported as male
  • 64% of reports to SARA contained the name of the offender
  • 64% of offences reported to SARA occurred in the 2010s

If you or someone you know would like to report a sexual assault anonymously, go to

In March 2018 our manager Carolyn Worth was invited to give a keynote speech about SARA to a conference in the UK. We made a video of her talk and they watched her on our YouTube channel. See the video here.

Whenever our manager goes away, she takes SARA stickers and sends us pictures of SARA in unusual places. Here are some examples.
SARA in Queensland
SARA in NZ with Gandalf and a Troll
SARA in Broome
Kimberley, Western Australia
SARA in the Pilbara

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