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

Function two: implementation of appropriate training and accreditation programmes

11.25Research shows that “the psychological impact of victimisation can be considerably exacerbated by insensitive treatment and a lack of understanding of victims’ needs by agencies and organisations within the criminal justice system.”705 Best intentions in working with victims of sexual violence may be insufficient to overcome social and cultural norms and preconditioning, or to counteract socially entrenched preconceptions or judgments which are sometimes referred to as “rape myths” (see Chapter 1). What is needed is specialist (in terms of being trained) rather than dedicated workers (having good intentions but not necessarily appropriate skills and knowledge).

11.26Effective training can equip those working with victims of sexual violence to pre-empt the sort of needs and questions that victims might have, further easing the experience for the victim. For example, a victim who has the court process explained to them in advance might be more willing to participate in that process knowing that they can give certain evidence by CCTV or by video link. Service providers that have staff who understand aspects of the criminal justice process, for instance what investigating and prosecuting a complaint involves, will be able to respond to victims’ queries straight away.

11.27Those working in the sexual violence sector require adequate training and education. Training relates largely to process (for example, a forensic examination is undertaken by step 1, step 2, step 3 and so on). Education concerns the nuances of sexual violence and how to respond to the presenting victim’s specific support and service needs (for example, using child appropriate language when dealing with a child victim) rather than providing a generic response to the act of sexual violence.

11.28Reform is required to implement nation-wide, ongoing education and training programmes based on international research and delivered by qualified instructors and educators or to support service providers such as Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care (DSAC) in doing so. The programmes should be available throughout the country and provide a standard qualification. A corollary to this would be working with sector providers to identify good practice standards around which training programmes should be conducted.

11.29One way to approach this could be to adopt a similar practice to the Police specialist interviewers, who internally review and identify where lessons can be learnt from practice. To the extent that such an exchange of ideas is normalised in the sector, the need for ongoing training can be limited to expertise in a particular area, for example understanding legislation. A good practice example is the Advisory Group on Sexual Crime in Scotland which brings together experts including prosecutors, NGOs, and Police to consider best practice in the prosecution of sexual violence cases.706 In addition, training courses for prosecution staff on sexual violence cases are provided using resources from the Advisory Group and medical staff.
11.30The need for training and education extends to anyone who interacts with victims of sexual violence, including judges, lawyers, police officers, and medical personnel (as also touched upon in Parts B and C). We acknowledge training programmes already in existence, including those offered by Police and DSAC to police officers and doctors who work with victims of sexual violence.707 Similarly, sector organisations such as the National Collective of Rape Crisis offer a limited number of training courses. However, these training programmes are not available throughout the country nor are they available to everyone who interacts with victims of sexual violence. The reasons for this are inevitably linked to lack of funding, but may also be due to a lack of political investment and lack of awareness of the value of training and education.

11.31In addition to the need for education and training, there should be accreditation of those individuals who need to exercise a high skill level when working with victims. These include medical professionals involved in examining victims, counsellors, psychologists, and those who would be working within the alternative justice process covered in Part C. Accreditation provides a mechanism to ensure a provider’s priorities are clearly defined and credible and that good practice models are being used. Monitoring ensures compliance with those standards.

11.32Accreditation does occur in New Zealand in the field of sexual violence. DSAC, for example, offers a system with full accreditation (as a DSAC-accredited doctor) approved by the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.708 However, we note that there are also doctors that may undertake DSAC training but not be DSAC accredited. There is no monitoring and supervisory oversight to ensure consistent accreditation.
11.33One overseas accreditation model is the RESPECT Accreditation Standard found in the United Kingdom and discussed in Part C.709 Providers start with a Safe Minimum Practice assessment focusing on safety and risk management, which is offset against the cost of accreditation, and then if they elect to seek accreditation they undergo a full panel-led assessment. The purpose of RESPECT accreditation is not to dictate a certain work model, but is to focus on the quality of service delivery and outcomes and to seek to enhance the risk management procedures and safeguarding functions identified as existing in the original Safe Minimum Practice Assessment (for example reporting functions and length of intervention are important factors). The standards are reassessed every three years in consultation with sector providers, academics and other research bodies in order to reflect changes in thinking. This model applies to organisations rather than individuals.
11.34The RESPECT model illustrates the different functions of training on the one hand (which equips individuals with the knowledge and skills to respond in a given context) and accreditation on the other (which objectively identifies that the services being provided – for example training services – have been assessed as meeting objective standards of assurance relating to quality, safety and risk management). Both training and accreditation are needed to strengthen “a coordinated community response”.710

11.35We consider steps should be taken to consult with the sector for the purpose of establishing good practice standards. Although it may not be government’s role to actually design and deliver training programmes, government should be involved in ensuring that these programmes come into existence (including through funding support) and assuring the quality of those programmes, as associated with the recommended oversight role. We recommend that government oversight would require taking an active role in the accreditation process, where accreditation was deemed necessary. One way this might happen is by delegating to an appropriate body (for example to District Health Boards and/or DSAC, for accrediting doctors, or to a newly established multi-disciplinary advisory group).

11.36There may be some crossover between the accreditation discussed here and the recommendations made in Part C for accreditation of providers, facilitators and programmes operating under the alternative process.

Tasks for government

705Elisabeth McDonald “Complainant desire for information, consultation and support: How to respond and who should provide?” in McDonald and Tinsley (eds), above n 693, 168 at 169, quoting Jonathan Doak Victims’ Rights, Human Rights and Criminal Justice: Reconceiving the Role of Third Parties (Hart Publishing, Oxford, 2008) at 51.
706Scotland Police News <>.
707Examples of training programmes run by DSAC include an advanced paediatric course on “Medical Assessment of Sexually Abused Children and Adolescents” conducted every two years (over four days) and a forensic training weekend on “Medical/Forensic Management of Adult Sexual Assault” held in general once a year and usually in Auckland. In addition there is a formal mentoring programme for DSAC doctors who start to see patients and following completion of the initial training course. Nurses currently attend existing DSAC training rather than undergoing separate training. DSAC clinicians also run a medical examination training session at the Police’s adult sexual assault investigators’ training, and ad hoc community training sessions as requested.
708We note that DSAC doctors also provide the SAMS (Sexual Abuse – Assault Medico-Legal) service to provide expert medical forensic opinions for court cases involving sexual violence.
709RESPECT is a community domestic violence perpetrator programme: “Accreditation” (2015) RESPECT <>.
710RESPECT The Respect Accreditation Standard (Respect, 2012).