According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the vast majority of sexual assaults (2 out of 3) do not get reported. Statistics for domestic violence are similar, with the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence reporting that about 50% of domestic violence incidents go unreported.
This is absolutely heartbreaking.
And while we want as many of these crimes to be reported as possible, the victims of these crimes absolutely cannot be blamed for underreporting because the problem does not lie with the victims themselves. It’s that we live in a culture where victims of abuse are fearful of reporting violent crime.
Violence prevention organizations cite various reasons why victims do not report their abuse, but the top reasons include fear of retaliation on the part of their abusers as well as the belief that the police department will not take their claims seriously and will do nothing to help.
Well, one police department in Australia is taking some unprecedented steps to help victims feel more comfortable and safe when reporting abuse. The Victoria police department in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia has opened several abuse reporting centers called Multidisciplinary Centres (MDCs) — and they look more like meditation centers than police departments.
Take a look at one of these gorgeous, inviting spaces:
According to the Victoria Police’s Facebook page, Multidisciplinary Centres are “designed to provide an integrated and victim-centered way of responding to sexual crime and child physical abuse.”
What a fantastic and very necessary idea.
The now-viral Facebook post that the Victoria Police shared depicts a Multidisciplinary Centre in Morwell, Australia, which looks pretty much like the most warm, welcoming place on earth. The rooms are bathed in natural light and include wood paneling, comfy chairs, and beautiful, clean play places for kids — including a doll house that looks like it’s straight out of a Waldorf catalog.
It’s hard to believe that this is a building belonging to the police department, but it seems that this is exactly their intention: to make sure that abuse victims know that there is nothing threatening in this environment, and that they will be cared for, nurtured, and protected here.
It’s a truly beautiful thing.
The Victoria Police department explains that, even though it may not look this way, this Multidisciplinary Centre is actually an official police department building, containing “a range of agencies and services under the one roof, including the Victoria Police Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT).”
The department reports that the SOCIT team works with an “empathetic” and comprehensive staff that includes professional counselors and advocates, child protection staff, nurses, and forensic medical officers. Additionally, the department emphasizes that the Multidisciplinary Centre buildings are in a totally separate location from the police station and “provide a welcoming, confidential and safe environment for victims/survivors.”
These are such important services that all men, women, and children — of all races, ages, and classes — should have equal and free access to.
The Victoria Police’s website reports that they have a whopping seven of these centers in their area, which makes the vision for these centers that much more incredible and effective.
Of course, as promising and inspiring as these Australian centers sound, they don’t reach the millions of other victims who need safe havens around the world. Still, a place like this could act as a blueprint for police departments everywhere (hint, hint), and we really all should be paying attention to innovative ideas like this.
Victims of abuse deserve so much better than what they currently have. Their voices need to be heard and believed. They need a safe place to land, and so do their children. We need to make it completely possible and guaranteed that victims are safely removed from any abusive situation — and that their abusers are taken off the streets and prosecuted justly for the crimes they’ve committed. The Victoria Police have taken a step in the right direction. Hopefully others will follow.