Communities and Justice

Experiences of complainants of adult sexual offences in the NSW criminal justice system

The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), in partnership with KPMG, the RMIT Centre for Innovative Justice, and Professor Julia Quilter from the University of Wollongong and Professor Luke McNamara of the University of NSW are conducting research into the experiences of adult complainants of sexual offences within the NSW criminal justice system.


Only a small percentage (between 10% and 20%) of sexual assault offences are reported to police. Recognising this high attrition rate and the limited evidence-base the NSW Law Reform Commission (in their recent report on sexual assault consent laws) recommended further research be undertaken by the NSW Department of Communities and Justice to better understand the experiences of complainants of sexual offences in the criminal justice system (see recommendation 10.3; pp. 201). A comprehensive study of complainants’ experiences of sexual offence laws and processes would provide valuable evidence to help guide policy and reform in this area and improve the response of the criminal justice system to sexual offences.

Research aims and methods

The research aims to provide a comprehensive picture of criminal proceedings for sexual offences and adult complainants’ experiences with the criminal justice system.

The work will consider the whole criminal justice journey of the complainant, from the point of the initial complaint/engagement with NSW Police to the final outcome. This will include their experiences with police investigative processes and evidence gathering, as well as their experiences with the court process. Complainants will also be asked about the usefulness of existing support mechanisms, the extent to which these are offered and used, and what could be improved.

The project will draw on several sources of data, including interviews with complainants at different stages of their criminal proceedings, interviews with key informants, documentary/transcript analysis and analysis of administrative data. A Research Advisory Group is overseeing the study. This Group includes NSW Government agencies, academics and representatives from victim/survivor advocacy groups.

Last updated:

18 May 2023