The central purpose of this study was to explore the attitudes and beliefs about sexual assault of health and welfare professionals in a rural area. These front line staff are often the professionals to whom a woman discloses her story, yet many generalist health and welfare workers feel ill equipped to deal with such disclosures. This study sought to understand the frameworks and beliefs held by generalist health and welfare workers about sexual assault. The findings of this study indicate that attitudes and beliefs of many participants included theoretical frameworks that ignore the role of power and gender, and are based on myths and assumptions about the behaviour and/or psychology of victim/survivors and perpetrators. Such beliefs have an impact on outcomes for survivors, and the quality of service offered to them, and indicates a need for comprehensive further training for health and welfare workers about sexual assault. Participants also lacked confidence in their ability to work effectively with survivors, although they clearly understood the long-term effects of experiencing sexual assault.
This study, conducted for the Department of Human Services (Grampians Region) in Victoria, found that gay men and lesbians experience similar types of stigma and discrimination in rural areas as those in urban centres, but that this was exacerbated by the lack of anonymity in the smaller communities. The hatred of homosexuality can, in some relatively supportive family, community, school and work contexts, transform into a homophobia that embodies a fear of homosexuality which can, and not infrequently does, result in homophobic abuse and violence. Although the majority of research participants in this study were accepting of their sexuality and happy to be lesbian or gay, they nevertheless lived curtailed lives with a blanket around a central dimension of their lives. Furthermore it was found that the experience of gay men is not a mirror image of that for lesbians.