Drunk, alone or wearing a short skirt: Rape is never, ever the victim's fault
Even police were shocked by the horrific gang rape of a young woman in Baulkham Hills over the weekend but many people are already blaming the unnamed victim.
She was probably drunk, they say, and wearing a short skirt and high heels. And what was she doing walking home alone at 1am? She was practically asking for something bad to happen.
To suggest that the freedom or movements of women should be restricted in order to avoid such violence is abhorrent.
Too often, when it comes to sexual assault we say the victim should not have been there, or done that, or looked like this, or behaved like that, when in fact what we should be saying, "Where does the offender get off thinking they can behave like that and how dare they?".
Women have every right to be in any place at any time doing whatever it is that they choose, just as men do.
It is the offenders who are wrong and whose behaviour is offensive in the extreme. They are the ones who should not be there. It is their behaviours that need to change and their lives that should be restricted.
It is every woman's human right to be able to go about the business of their lives in safety and it is the responsibility of all of us to reject the behaviours of sex offenders and the attitudes and beliefs that create an environment in which they think they can act as they do.
While any form of sexual assault is always horrific, an attack by strangers at night is the worst nightmare that all women are warned about.
Fortunately this form of sexual assault is very rare.
This is not to diminish the impact this violence has had on the young woman who was attacked by strangers in Baulkham Hills. Nor should it in any way decrease the empathy and support we should all be offering her in her recovery.
While continuing to be appalled by the actions of those men we need to keep in mind that most sexual assaults are committed by family members, friends and acquaintances.
In fact sexual assault by a stranger equals less than 1 per cent of the sexual assault that happen in our community.
In most sexual assaults the offender uses the familiarity and trust that comes with knowing a person to manipulate them into a location where they can commit their act without interruption or witness.
Sex offenders will commonly blame or threaten the person to stop them reporting to police, an effective strategy as only 15 per cent of sexual assaults are reported.
We should support, not blame, all victims of sexual assault and send a clear message to their attackers: you will be brought to account.
Karen Willis is the Executive Officer of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre.