Chapter 2
Prevalence and harm of sexual violence


2.1This chapter presents some of the statistics relating to sexual violence in New Zealand, taking care to highlight the limitations of the data available.

2.2There are difficulties in painting an accurate statistical picture, which are discussed below. However, the sexual violence sector estimates that one in four women and one in eight men are the victim of sexual violence in their lifetime.65
2.3The 2014 New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey (NZCASS)66 concluded that two per cent of adults were the victims of one or more sexual offences in 2013,67 and according to earlier NZCASS studies, the number of sexual offences per 100,000 adults in 2005 was six, while the number of sexual offences per 100,000 adults in 2008 was four.68
2.4A further figure provided in the NZCASS in the last three surveys is the number of sexual offences (not expressed as a percentage). In 2005 there were 317,000, in 2008 there were 285,000 and in 2013 there were 186,000 sexual offences.69
65Allison Morris and James Reilly New Zealand National Survey of Crime Victims 2001 (Ministry of Justice 2003) at 166. Other figures from the sector include Rape Crisis Dunedin, which states on its website that “1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will experience sexual abuse, possibly more” (“Frequently asked questions” Rape Crisis Dunedin <>); Women’s Refuge notes that “one in three women experience psychological or physical abuse from their partners in their lifetime” (“New Zealand domestic violence statistics” Women’s Refuge <> citing Janet Fanslow and Elizabeth Robinson “Violence against women in New Zealand: prevalence and health consequences” (2004) 117 The New Zealand Medical Journal 34); HELP Auckland give the figure of 1 in 5 women on their website (“Sexual Abuse Statistics” HELP <>); ACC notes in the context of their “Mates and Dates” programme that “20% of female and 9% of male secondary school students report unwanted sexual contact or being made to do unwanted sexual things” (“Injury prevention strategy” ACC (17 October 2014) <>) while TOAH-NNEST notes that “there is no one definitive number that provides the true rate of sexual violence in New Zealand; rather the following statistics provide an indication of the prevalence of sexual violence in New Zealand: a cohort study of New Zealand children spanning from birth till the age of 25 found that sexual abuse was reported by 16% or around 1 in 6 people before the age of 18 [citing Fergusson, Boden and Horwood “Exposure to childhood sexual and physical abuse and adjustment into early adulthood” (2008) 32 Child Abuse & Neglect 607]. A World Health Organisation multi-country study found rates of child sexual abuse in New Zealand for adult women to be 28% (in rural setting) and 23% (in urban settings), or around 1 in 4 women [citing Janet Fanslow, Elizabeth Robinson, Sue Crengle and Lana Perese “Prevalence of child sexual abuse reported by a cross-sectional sample of New Zealand” 31 Child Abuse and Neglect 935]. Recent international research indicates that 1 in 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 16 [citing Gary Foster, Cameron Boyd and Patrick O’Leary Improving policy and practice responses for men sexually abused in childhood (Australian Institute of Family Studies 2012)] … 26% of female students, and 14% of male students, reported unwanted sexual contact which was defined as being touched sexually or being made to do sexual things that they did not want to [citing Fleming and others Youth’12 Overview: The health and wellbeing of New Zealand secondary school students in 2012 (University of Auckland, Auckland, 2013)]… approximately 29 percent of women and 9 percent of men experience unwanted and distressing sexual contact over their lifetime” [citing Pat Mayhew and James Reilly The New Zealand Crime & Safety Survey: 2006 (Ministry of Justice 2007)]” (“Prevalence” TOAH-NNEST <>). On the “It’s Not OK” website the figures taken from the 2015 New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey provide that 24 per cent of women and 6 per cent of men have experienced sexual violence at some point during their life; and Ministry of Women’s Affairs state that a quarter to a third of New Zealand women will experience intimate partner violence or sexual violence in their lifetime (“What is violence against women?” Ministry for Women <>).
66Based on 6,943 interviews conducted in the period February to June 2014 relating to 2013.
67Ministry of Justice The New Zealand Crime & Safety Survey: 2014 (Ministry of Justice, 2014) at 4.
68These figures have a high relative error (>20 percent) and are described as not being statistically reliable: Pat Mayhew and James Reilly The New Zealand Crime & Safety Survey: 2006 (Ministry of Justice 2007) at 55; Bronwyn Morrison, Melissa Smith and Lisa Gregg The New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey: 2009 – Main Findings Report (Ministry of Justice 2010) at 31.
69Note the number of offences is different to incidents because an incident may have up to two offences. Ministry of Justice 2014 New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey: Main Findings (2015) at 21.