Chapter 11
What change can improve the sexual violence support sector to better assist​
victims to engage with the justice system?

Function four: dedicated research capacity focused on sexual violence including support to implement robust data collection practices throughout the sector

11.43Sexual violence has intersections with other forms of violence while also being a form of harm with an impact that far exceeds the act of violence itself. Without a dedicated research unit and data on which to base that research, there is reduced insight into the nature of the violence, the experience of victims, methods of preventing sexual violence, the impact of sexual violence for victims, their families and the wider community and how best to support victims and their families in the criminal justice system and beyond.713

11.44There is the need for a research unit, either independent of a research facility already in existence or as an extension of a current facility (for example, based in a hospital or academic institution), but with its own independent research agenda and funding. The scope of potential projects is significant and encompasses not only more theoretical and conceptual areas such as the nature of victimisation but also more practical areas that would help victims of sexual violence in New Zealand today. These could include:

11.45Throughout this Report (and other research including From “Real Rape” to Real Justice: Prosecuting Rape in New Zealand) the need for further research is highlighted. The dedicated research centre would be an ideal place to centralise these projects, ensuring an effective use of resources, access to stakeholders and experts in the field, and a conduit to ensure those across the sector know of and can participate in this research agenda.

11.46An important component of research is the collection of data pertaining to sexual violence. Data collection informs funding allocation and demand, as well as increasing knowledge relating to the prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence. As highlighted in New Zealand’s state reports issued by the United Nations monitoring bodies, there is a need to “ensure systematic collection and publication of data, disaggregated by sex, ethnicity, type [and characteristics] 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”.715 This statement highlights the range of statistics and data that can be collected and the use made of that information.716

11.47Good data is crucial to creating an accurate picture of sexual violence in New Zealand. Researchers and policymakers need good data to understand the problem of sexual violence and propose solutions. Underreporting of sexual violence creates a barrier to the collection of good data through official channels, which means that Police crime statistics alone cannot be relied on.

11.48The issue of centralisation also needs to be addressed. At present, potentially useful data is held across a range of different government and community service providers. During this review we contacted Police, the Ministry of Justice, ACC, and a number of community service providers to request quantitative and qualitative data on sexual violence. Inevitably, different organisations recorded their data in different ways and some were more comprehensive than others. Some responsibility needs to be taken at a national level for collating data from the various organisations, keeping it current, and making it accessible to researchers, policy makers, and the general public.

11.49Greater consideration is required of methods by which data can be obtained, including alternative reporting models such as the “You Have Options” programme in the United States of America, which allows anonymous reporting of sexual violence and thus collection of data even if the victim elects not to report formally to Police.717 Programmes such as this allow access to information that would not otherwise be available and would permit exploration of alternative approaches to meeting the justice needs of victims. For example, with the “You Have Options” programme, there is capacity for Police to draw on data that might be used to prevent future offending even where the victim has chosen not to pursue the complaint to trial.

Tasks for government

713We note with interest the Family Violence Clearinghouse, which is a national centre for research and information on family and whānau violence in New Zealand. It provides information and resources for people working towards the elimination of family violence and is based at the School of Population Health at the University of Auckland. It has both a sector advisory group and an academic advisory group, thus has an academic base and seeks to exchange knowledge between the Government, NGOs and the public, while remaining independent. In a similar vein we acknowledge the work done by the Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (Superu) that addresses issues across the social sector.
714Another topical area for further research is the nature of sexual violence that occurs in a social media context, as highlighted in New Zealand with the Roast Busters incident: Linda Beckett “Care in Collaboration: Preventing Secondary Victimisation Through a Holistic Approach to Pre-Court Sexual Violence Interventions” (PhD in Criminology Thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 2007) at 257.
715United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: New Zealand CEDAW/C/NZL/CO/7 (2012) at [25(e)].
716We note that in August 2012, Cabinet approved the new Tier 1 statistics list, which includes “family violence” in the Safety and Security category. We would suggest that statistics on sexual violence could also be added to this category as “the most important statistics for understanding how well New Zealand is performing”: “Tier 1 statistics” (17 September 2013) Statisphere <>.
717See “You Have Options” programme <>.