Vital DNA evidence could be missed thanks to a Queensland Health policy to not collect forensic evidence from rape victims unless they agree to report the assault to police.
Rape victims have a 72-hour window to have a forensic medical examination before evidence is eroded, meaning those Queensland victims are forced to decide within that period whether to report the attack to police.
In every other state and territory in Australia, victims can undergo a forensic medical examination, also known as a rape kit, without having to make that decision straight away.
But Queensland Health refuses to conduct or store rape kits unless police are called.
A Brisbane woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she was attacked by someone she knew and was unsure if she was ready to contact the police straight away.
Terrified, she went to hospital to get herself checked for sexually transmitted diseases and to find out what her options were.
After pleading with hospital staff for hours to document her bruising and tearing, they said they would only do that if she reported her rape to police.
“I made it clear to them that it [reporting to police] was something I was seriously considering but I wanted more time to be sure,” she said.
“I know how difficult it is to prosecute sexual assault in court. It can take years and I was worried about social backlash and also my career.
“The police wouldn’t even come to the hospital to talk to me about my options. I don’t think everyone should be expected to make a definitive decision in that amount of time.”
Doctors in the emergency department were also hesitant to document her injuries because they were not specialised in forensic examinations.
“I felt really pressured to decide because I really wanted a forensic medical examination done. If this did go to court I didn’t want it to be his word against mine,” the woman said.
“I was really frustrated and angry but mostly I felt an overwhelming sense of powerlessness.
“I think victims should be able to play a greater role in what happens to them next.”
A Brisbane Rape and Incest Survivors Support Centre spokeswoman said all victims needed to have the option as there were many reasons they might need time to consider reporting to police.