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

Function three: national level oversight to ensure the competency of those interacting​
with sexual violence victims

11.37Linked to the provision of training is the need for oversight and monitoring of those who interact with victims of sexual violence victims (including not only those in the support sector but also those in the justice sector and throughout the post-violence response and recovery period). There may be individuals or organisations that are carrying out services in a well-meaning way, but that do not have adequate training or facilities to support them in offering these services to vulnerable victims who need the best care possible. This can place victims at risk of re-traumatisation, regardless of the best intentions of the organisations involved. People who deal with victims of sexual violence need ongoing, expert training and education (as also highlighted in Parts B and C).711 Service providers should, and do, strive to take account of how their behaviour and response can have a significant impact on victims, both positive and negative, for example stereotypes about victims of sexual violence may influence treatment of a victim and entrench or aggravate a victim’s potential feeling of reduced self-worth.

11.38Service providers should and do strive to have an acute awareness and comprehension of matters such as the psychological presentation of victims of sexual violence and how this can manifest. A negative reaction to disclosure might cause the victim to withdraw and not tell anyone what has happened for many years, if at all. What are required are educational programmes based on extensive research, international good practice, and foundational theories, which are conditional upon high-level organisation and resourcing.

11.39We recommend a government-led strategy that seeks to professionalise the community of individuals who interact with victims of sexual violence, therefore ensuring that those who work with victims of sexual violence effectively help and support victims within the relevant context, whether medical care, the justice system, or therapeutic assistance. This should be achieved by three discrete competency policies (to be explored in depth below), which are ongoing education programmes, continuing skills training obligations, and accreditation prerequisites where appropriate (for example counsellors and forensic examiners).

11.40In order to ensure ongoing quality and competency assurance we consider that a monitoring system, external to the support sector, is required to avoid the negative impact that can arise if “sexual violence services are not being delivered in a safe way”.712 We acknowledge that ongoing monitoring and reporting functions are onerous for a community of individuals, departments and organisations that are under significant resource pressure, however we consider that in order to effectively coordinate the sector and the services in the best interests of victims and for the best use and distribution of funding, it is reasonable to expect those working within the sector to reach a minimum standard of competence.

11.41Specifically, we consider that government should coordinate and lead external oversight of the sector and, where appropriate, assure the competency of and monitor those working within the sector. Crucial to this reform is support of those working with victims of sexual violence by the adoption and implementation of a robust training, education, and accreditation programme.

11.42Again, there could be a functional crossover here between oversight of the sexual violence sector and the recommendations made in Part C around the monitoring of providers in the alternative process.

Tasks for government

711The Ministry of Social Development received 645 submissions that “recognised standards of good practice for specialist sexual violence social services do exist but are not necessarily used to inform practice”: Ministry of Social Development, above n 697, at 6. For examples of good practice guidelines in use in New Zealand see ACC Sexual Abuse and Mental Injury: Practice Guidelines for Aotearoa New Zealand (March 2008) and Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence Mainstream Crisis Support Services Responding to Sexual Violence Perpetrated Against Adults: Good Practice Project – Round 1 (December 2009).
712Ministry of Social Development Specialist Sexual Violence Sector Review Report to Hon Paula Bennett, Minister for Social Development (2013) at [46].