Is there a need for reform to help sexual violence victims engage with the
What is international good practice when meeting the support and service needs
of victims of sexual violence?
10.11Referring to the approaches taken in other countries to support sexual violence victims can help to determine what improvements can be made in meeting the service and support needs of victims in New Zealand. In particular, it is useful to examine whether overseas models lead to increased engagement in the justice system.
10.12Appendix E provides an overview of several good practice models (but is not a comprehensive review of the various approaches taken internationally). Nor have the models presented in Appendix E been extensively evaluated. Rather, they paint a picture of what is viewed internationally as good practice in terms of meeting the support and service needs of victims of sexual violence. Each of the models discussed in Appendix E has a strong focus on meeting the varied and complex support and service needs of sexual violence victims, which is in turn linked to increased engagement of victims with the relevant justice mechanism. Several themes that have emerged from our analysis of these international good practice models are considered below.
Cooperative and coordinated relationships between service providers and those working in the justice sector better enable service providers to facilitate victim participation in the justice system.
10.13The overseas models draw on several different approaches and organisational methods, but a strong priority in all of them is the fostering of cross-organisational relationships (across both the public and private spheres). Open and ongoing channels of communication between providers in the support and justice sectors, as well as with victims, are essential to understanding what services exist, where and how they are delivered, and where the gaps in service provision lie.
10.14In addition, coordination helps identify where there is an overlap of services, helping to minimise wastage and to better direct resources. Good case management, ensuring victims have the full range of services and that these services are not doubling up, requires clear communication and referral pathways. Referral pathways which assist the victim from crisis management to participation in the justice system and then beyond require strong cross-organisational relationships.
When victims are required to take fewer steps to access the justice system, and victims feel prepared to enter into the justice system, they are much more likely to effectively participate in that system.Top
10.15In many jurisdictions a one-stop-shop model is used to reduce “the number of steps that a woman must take to access justice”. This in turn has been linked to reduced rates of attrition and increased rates of conviction, as seen in South Africa with the Thuthuzela Care Centres (which are crisis response centres located in central hospitals and established by the National Prosecuting Authority).
10.16The number of physical and psychological steps to be taken by the victim must be reduced. Providing victims with good access to support services requires that victims have access to those services as early as possible after sexual violence has taken place. Early intervention is linked to victims understanding how the justice system works and being more likely to participate in that system.
10.17Key features are that the support services are free, physically close, consistent in the provision of information, and offered for an extended period of time. They must adequately and accurately inform victims of their rights and how these rights can be exercised.
10.18Failing to offer a minimum service with these features negatively impacts victim participation in the justice system, as it puts the onus on victims at a time when they also must address the personal impact of the sexual violence that has occurred.
10.19Gender, sexuality, culture, religion, and educational background can influence a victim’s support and service needs and accordingly there is a need for individualised, and where necessary, specialised care. Disability and language can seriously impact on a victim’s ability to understand the choices open to them and their ability to make and communicate that decision. This needs to be recognised in the nature of support offered to victims of sexual violence who are disabled.
10.20Being a victim of sexual violence while incarcerated or in an institutional setting likewise presents challenges for the victim and those assisting the victim. Victims may use drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism in the aftermath of sexual violence, which can seriously inhibit their ability to participate effectively in the justice system and make decisions regarding participation. Age can also have an impact in terms of the most appropriate response – for example, there is limited recognition that senior citizens can also experience sexual violence and that their support and service needs will vary accordingly.
10.21Early assistance which is tailored to the unique support and service needs of victims – what we express as “wraparound care” in this Report – is more likely to place the victim in a stronger position when entering the justice system.
Wraparound care does not necessarily require centrally located support services.Top
10.22The one-stop-shop model has proven popular in many countries including the United Kingdom, South Africa and the United States of America. As pointed out in From “Real Rape” to Real Justice: Prosecuting Rape in New Zealand, however, it is not the fact that service providers are affiliated with one particular body that is important, as “no one group need have a monopoly”. Instead, the important features of the one-stop-shop system are “availability, continuity and quality of adequately funded support”. The objective is to prevent victims from feeling “shuttled between agencies”. Having one source of advice and assistance that can help in all matters in the aftermath of the violence and during the justice process may help victims feel a greater sense of control.
10.23There is no clear evidence that the one-stop-shop model of care in itself leads to greater engagement of victims with the justice system. Rather, it is the fact that the care provided at a one-stop-shop facility wraps around the victim. Indeed, investing what is already limited funding into one-stop-shop facilities may direct funds away from other services, which was one of the criticisms made in the United Kingdom of the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) system.
10.24On that basis it is not necessary to reorganise service providers into centralised facilities, but service providers should be given the appropriate assistance to ensure wraparound care is provided to victims.
10.25We endorse calls across the support sector for a greater focus of support services to be put on providing a coordinated and wrapped around response to victims. While a one-stop-shop model might be appropriate in certain urban centres, another way to provide wraparound care could be the use of recognised and qualified sexual violence victim advisers, such as the Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) model in the United Kingdom and the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) model in the United States. The ISVA system has been described as “an example of a reform to a system that is effective, cost-effective and affordable [and] hard to beat”.
10.26The examples of wraparound care from overseas share several characteristics. These models:
(a) are tailored to the individual victim’s support and service needs;
(b) are collaborative, with referral pathways established rather than the victim having to seek out assistance;
(c) are ongoing, and take into account the long-term nature of harm that must be addressed, for example multiple assaults may require sustained care that extends over a period of years;
(d) involve and inform the victim of choices and options to empower the victim to be active in their own care;
(e) are culturally competent, which may require characteristics of age, gender, ethnicity and disability being taken into account; and
(f) utilise services that are already based in the community including hospitals, support providers, and churches.
Service providers must be specially trained and educated in order to provide the most effective care to victims. Effective education programmes benefit from specialised research in the field of sexual violence.Top
10.27Denmark presents the gold standard in terms of having a dedicated research centre, however all the models we discuss in Appendix E have strong educational and training programmes for those who have contact with victims of sexual violence. In South Africa prosecutors are specially trained; in the United Kingdom there are specialist advocates whose training reflects their roles and whose practice is measured against a recognised qualification; and in the United States there are specialist nurses who receive specialist training in addition to their standard nurse training.
10.28In all these models there is an implicit awareness, judging from the resources invested into education and training programmes, that sexual violence is a discrete area of violence that must be recognised and understood as such. Failure to ensure adequate training leads to the risk of inadvertent re-traumatisation of victims.