A victims advocate says while thousands of violent sex crimes reported each year are "unresolved", the process and attitudes around reporting incidents has vastly improved.

The comments follow a Herald investigation into the resolution of reported violent sex crimes, which found 2400 cases went "unresolved" in 2016.

Each unresolved case means police believe an assault occurred, but an offender was never charged and taken to court for that crime.

Since 1994, official data says almost 14,000 aggravated sexual assaults in total were unresolved. However, the Herald can reveal that, because an unknown swathe of sex crimes were categorised in a way that meant they were effectively removed from statistics, the true number of unresolved cases over the past 25 years is likely to be thousands more.


According to current police data analysed by the Herald, as of 2016 up to 80 per cent of reported aggravated sexual assaults go unresolved. For the crime "male rapes female 16 and over", that number is even higher, at 85 per cent. Rape cases are four times less likely to go to court in comparison with other types of physical assault, where only 24 per cent of offences are unresolved.

Nicholas said there are multiple factors that contributed to the currently low resolution rate.

The sad reality, she said, was that the majority of sexual violence cases came down to "he said, she said".

There were very rarely any witnesses to a sexual violence crime, which made things difficult in court.

"For a lot of the time if the evidence is not there, then there's not a lot that can be done.

"We've got to weigh up the evidence and is there enough there to take it over that evidential threshold. If police and crown believe that there absolutely is, then they will arrest and prosecution takes place."

But Nicholas said that if the evidence was not there, or was not strong enough, the authorities would not want to put survivors through the often harrowing court process to wind up with a "not guilty" verdict.

"But if they don't believe that they will get a conviction then they will talk to survivors and explain to them the reasons why."


Victims were well informed of the process they would go through, Nicholas said. It was a hard road getting the case to court, and harder still, going through court.

"There's an expectation that 'hey, it's going to be a hard road if I get to court, but at the end of the day if I don't get there, I've got police officers who believe me'."

And it was in this area that Nicholas said things had vastly improved.

"I've got to give it to police - the way they are supporting our survivors in giving their evidence, it's never a disbelief anymore.

"For a large amount of survivors that I've supported in the past and I'm supporting now, the conversations that we have show that ... the police absolutely do their best.

"They want you to tell your story and they want to do the best for you and your family," she said.

Nicholas suggested there was currently a gap between resolution through an offender being prosecuted, and victims having no outcome.

Support in these cases could be bolstered through a review of steps like protection orders.

"We may not get to a prosecution, we may not get to that whole trial, what is there in between?" she questioned.

"How do we close these gaps?

"It's about making sure our agencies are truly funded so they can protect our women."