The sexual violence support sector in New Zealand
1Having met with Te Ohaakii a Hine – National Network Ending Sexual Violence Together (known as TOAH-NNEST) and service providers such as HELP, START, Shine, Aviva and Rape Crisis, the Law Commission has found a sector that is wholeheartedly committed to assisting victims of sexual violence but that currently operates without a coordinated and integrated government-supported framework to back it up.
2New Zealand has a large number of community-based specialist sexual violence service providers that cover the full range of support services from the initial clinical and forensic stages through to counselling, social work, and ongoing support. These include sexual violence-specific services such as Rape Crisis; services that cover both sexual violence and family violence such as Women’s Refuge; medical help such as sexual health clinics or GPs, mental health services and counselling; and more targeted services for those from a particular cultural background such as the Waka Hourua project, Te Korowai Wakaea (a marae-based programme for sexual violence victims and their whānau) and Paiakatia Te Riri, which provides support for women who identify as Māori.
3Service providers operate according to their own agenda and philosophy and, in general, rely on funding from the relevant government department and private investors to finance themselves. There is a greater concentration of services in urban centres, and the range of services depends on each service provider. Some service providers are available throughout the week, and some operate 0800 numbers. We understand that funding has a big impact on when services are available – and that some service providers have amalgamated in order to deal with demand. Following the closure of the Survivors of Sexual Violence Trust in July 2014, the Ministry of Social Development provided temporary funding for Aviva and START to work together to ensure ongoing access to crisis response services in Christchurch. Since 28 July 2014, Aviva and START have been providing a 24/7 crisis response service called Sexual Assault Support Service Canterbury. Each victim’s experience will be different depending on the service provider they choose to engage with and the services that provider is able to offer. There is a large amount of informal cooperation between service providers.
4Below, we give a brief summary of some of the main community-based service providers to give an idea of the sector.
5TOAH-NNEST is what is described by the Ministry of Social Development as “the sector’s national umbrella group”. TOAH-NNEST was formed in 2005 and works within a bicultural framework to formally represent approximately 39 service providers and individual specialists working in the sector (representing many more service providers in an informal capacity). In addition, there are a number of associate members. Despite being described as an “umbrella group”, we understand that, while TOAH-NNEST has strong links throughout the sector (more so than any other organisation), it does not represent the entire sector. Different service providers have different cultural and ideological views, including approaches relating to organisation and how funding should be distributed.
6One high-profile sector service provider in New Zealand is Rape Crisis, which works as a collective. The National Collective of Rape Crisis and Related Groups Aotearoa is a bicultural umbrella organisation formed in 1982 to represent specialist sexual violence agencies that operate in accordance with the organisation’s philosophy. The National Collective aims to operate without hierarchy so that management and governance issues are open to all women and Māori wāhine. Rape Crisis provides services ranging from counselling and support, crisis callouts (responding immediately after an incident of sexual violence to support victims) and provision of information resources and educative workshops. Rape Crisis is one example of a sexual violence sector support provider aiming to help as many victims as possible while also addressing broader issues such as rape prevention, all within a limited budget.
7In addition to sector-based service providers that have a sexual violence focus such as Rape Crisis, there are medical services that specialise in caring for sexual violence victims. Sexual Abuse Assessment & Treatment Services (SAATS) centres provide treatment to victims of sexual violence in a specially designed environment (for example, a space that is culturally and physically safe, with toilet and shower facilities, privacy and adequate space for support people and that is suitable for collection of forensic samples in accordance with best practice and New Zealand standards). These are delivered through existing DHB facilities. Specially trained and mostly accredited doctors, with the support of nurses, deliver medical and forensic services at the SAATS centres. SAATS centres do not, however, provide a wraparound service. Every centre is different, but in general, SAATS centres do not conduct investigative interviews, offer long-term medical support or counselling or provide health services for related support and service needs (for example, dealing with unwanted pregnancies as a result of sexual violence, although a referral to an appropriate provider may be made).
8ACC is scheduled to lead an evaluation of SAATS centres on behalf of itself and the other SAATS co-funders, the Ministry of Health and New Zealand Police. The evaluation is anticipated to be completed by March 2016. The evaluation will seek to identify best practice models for paediatric, adolescent and adult services, develop an outcomes framework for performance measurement and monitoring, determine how to maintain and expand the SAATS workforce and develop a long-term funding model (in line with the current Government focus on improvement of contracting processes that have built-in outcomes performance measures). The provision of distinct paediatric, adolescent and adult services will be a focus of the evaluation.
Specialist needs services
9A small number of providers deal specifically with child complainants, but they do not operate across the country. The Kimiora sexual assault centre run by the New Plymouth Police Child Sexual Assault Team is a specialised unit designed to meet the unique support and service needs of children who have been victims of sexual violence. In addition, Starship Paediatric Te Puaruruhau and Te Pou Herenga Waka are specialist child-centred response units provided by the Auckland DHB and Counties Manukau DHB respectively. We understand, however, that the current availability of DSAC-trained paediatricians is limited and that children will need to either travel to a rural centre to be seen in a SAATS centre or be treated in a mainstream service where staff are not specifically trained to meet the unique needs of children as victims of sexual violence. As noted above, this lack of child-specific capability will be considered in the context of the ACC-led review of SAATS.
10There are fewer instances of services having the resource capacity and specialised knowledge to address the individualised support and service needs of adult victims, such as victims with disabilities and male victims.
11Culture is another important factor in the provision of support for victims of sexual violence in New Zealand that may necessitate specialised care. Sector service providers that operate through a single cultural lens (generally Pākehā) can “place those who belong to minority cultural groups at risk”. We heard many times when meeting with service providers and in receiving feedback on the project of the need for greater integration of Māori tikanga in responding to Māori victims and similarly awareness of Pasifika ways and culture. There is widespread awareness that “an absence of cultural competence is likely to leave people feeling dissatisfied, disrespected, demeaned and disempowered – and lead to misunderstandings”, yet the resources to address this need is lacking.
12One example of a specialised service that is operating in New Zealand is Shakti Women’s Refuge, which describes itself as offering “culturally competent support services for women, children and families of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin” but whose focus is on family violence. Migrant groups and people who identify with specific cultural beliefs and practices present specific challenges when they present to providers as victims of sexual violence, but there are limited services available to meet those challenges.
13Victims of sexual violence require a wide range of services to meet their individual support and service needs, however, the scope of services available in New Zealand will vary by region. Furthermore, we understand from our discussions with providers that the availability of services in rural communities can be restricted and that care is needed in small communities to robustly address privacy and confidentiality matters. We acknowledge that, in certain communities, however, great steps are being made to provide services in an innovative and considered manner given the resource challenges faced.
The role of government-based service providersTop
14There are several government departments and agencies that work alongside service providers to assist victims. Various roles are played by the Police (with the “tripartite response” of crisis support, SAATS centres and safe facilities), Child, Youth and Family, ACC, Ministry of Justice, Ministry for Women (which has undertaken research in sexual violence) and Ministry of Social Development (which has played a large role in reviews of the sector for the last few years).
15There is, however, a clear lack of coordination between government-based service providers and community-based service providers. For example, in relation to funding of the sector, one service provider can receive funding from several different government bodies with no oversight or coordination of how those funds have been allocated.
16We understand from our discussions that some sector service providers consider that government agencies do not draw on the experience and knowledge of the support sector and are therefore failing to benefit from what should be an ongoing consultation with sector service providers and the wider community and missing an opportunity to develop well informed policies. This can lead to doubling up of awareness campaigns, wasting time and resources.
Concerns relating to New Zealand’s response to sexual violence by human rights monitoring bodiesTop
17The United Nations human rights monitoring committees have released three reports since 2012 that have considered the way in which New Zealand addresses and helps victims of sexual violence. In summary, the committee reports have stressed the need to “address effectively the barriers that may prevent women from reporting acts of violence against them”, highlighting the lack of an effective, coherent and sustainable action plan to tackle sexual violence and its aftermath, the need for data to be collected and research to be undertaken, and the need for awareness-raising, training and a clear pathway for victims to the support services available.
United Nations Committee against Torture
18The most recent review comes from the Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of New Zealand by the United Nations Committee against Torture, which noted that “90 per cent of cases of sexual violence remain unreported [in New Zealand]” and expressed concern at “the lack of proper funding for specialist sexual violence support services that reflect the diversity in [New Zealand’s] communities”. The Committee urged New Zealand “to redouble its efforts to prevent and combat all forms of violence against women” by, amongst other things:
- taking necessary measures to encourage and facilitate the lodging of complaints by victims;
- ensuring that education professionals, healthcare providers and social workers are fully familiar with relevant legal provisions, trained to recognise the signs of violence against women and are capable of complying with their obligation to report cases;
- ensuring the effective enforcement of the existing legal framework by promptly, effectively and impartially investigating all reports of violence and prosecuting and punishing perpetrators in accordance with the gravity of their acts;
- guaranteeing in practice that all victims benefit from protection of and have access to adequately funded medical and legal aid, psychosocial counselling and social support schemes; and
- removing the cultural and financial barriers to accessing protection orders by removing or reducing the associated costs.
19At the time of writing this Report, we understand the Ministry of Justice has yet to formally respond to the Committee’s observations.
United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
20In 2012, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women likewise expressed concern “about the continued high and increasing levels of violence against women and the low rates of reporting and conviction, particularly relating to sexual violence…not[ing] with concern insufficient statistical data on violence against women, especially on violence against Māori women, migrant women and women with disabilities”. The Committee called upon New Zealand to:
- take the necessary measures to encourage the reporting of family and sexual violence cases, including by ensuring that education professionals, healthcare providers and social workers are fully familiar with relevant legal provisions and are sensitised to all forms of violence against women and are capable of complying with their obligation to report cases;
- strengthen training for the Police, public prosecutors, the judiciary and other relevant government bodies on family and sexual violence;
- provide adequate assistance and protection to women victims of violence, including Māori and migrant women, by ensuring that they receive the necessary legal and psychosocial services;
- ensure systematic collection and publication of data, disaggregated by sex, ethnicity, and type of violence and by the relationship of the perpetrator to the victim; to collect data on the number of women killed by partners or ex-partners; and to monitor the effectiveness of legislation, policy and practice relating to all forms of violence against women and girls.
21In its follow-up report, New Zealand failed to comment on the Committee’s findings in relation to sexual violence. The next state report is due in 2016.
United Nations Committee on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights
22Finally, the United Nations Committee on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights noted in 2012 that it was “concerned that, in spite of the measures taken by [New Zealand], family violence and sexual violence continue to be a problem, affecting in particular Māori women”. The Committee recommended that New Zealand “intensify its measures to combat family violence and also adopt, as a priority, a framework for the implementation of the recommendations of the Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence”, requesting that, in its 2017 report, New Zealand provide “updated statistical data on the incidence of family violence and sexual violence”. Currently, there is no body charged with collecting comprehensive data relating to sexual violence in New Zealand.
23These three recent commentaries highlight that the United Nations monitoring bodies likewise consider there to be a link between under-reporting and attrition on the one hand and measures to assist victims such as adequate training of service providers and access to support services on the other hand.