Chapter 2
Prevalence and harm of sexual violence

Prevalence of sexual violence

2.13Notwithstanding these limitations, an indication as to the prevalence of sexual violence can be measured through various sources. As these figures are from different sources, the extent to which those sources overlap is unknown, as different groups and methods are utilised. Thus, comparison between the sources would be inappropriate and potentially misleading.


2.14The NZCASS series began as the New Zealand National Survey of Crime Victims (NZNSCV) in 1996. A second NZNSCV occurred in 2001, before changes in the survey design and a re-naming in 2006. The NZCASS was repeated in 2009 and in 2014.

2.15The NZNSCV and the NZCASS series provide data from a comprehensive survey exploring the experience of crime victimisation of 5,000 to 7,000 randomly selected New Zealanders aged 15 and above.

2.16In the 2001 NZNSCV, around one in five women and one in 20 men reported being the victim of sexual violence in their lifetimes.75 Lifetime prevalence was not surveyed in the 2006 or 2009 NZCASS, but in the 2014 survey, it was found that 24 per cent of women and six per cent of men experienced sexual violence during their lives.76
2.17In 2005, six per cent of adults experienced sexual violence in that year (reported in the 2006 NZCASS).77 In 2008, that figure was four per cent of adults (reported in the 2009 NZCASS).78 As mentioned above, these numbers are statistically unreliable. The relative standard error was more than 20 per cent, due to the small number of respondents relating to sexual violence, and we note that the 2006 NZCASS stated that a 90 per cent confidence interval for sexual offences would indicate a rate between 2.9 and 9.9 per cent.79 In addition, in the 2006 sample, those who said “don’t wish to answer” were counted as having been victimised once.
2.18The NZCASS series also provide a “prevalence rate”, being the percentage of adults who experienced one or more offences in the relevant year in order to determine how widespread victimisation is. We note that the prevalence rate does not take into account that a person might have been victimised more than once. In 2005, the prevalence rate was four per cent, in 2008, this rate was three per cent, and in 2013, this rate was two per cent.80


2.19Another way to get an idea of the prevalence of sexual violence in New Zealand is data from ACC records. ACC funds counselling services for victims of sexual violence, regardless of whether the incident is reported to Police. In the 2013/14 financial year, approximately 5,500 new sensitive claims (a sensitive claim is a claim for support arising from sexual abuse or sexual assault that leaves a person with a mental injury) were lodged with ACC. 17,600 new and existing sensitive claims received a payment. The number of new sensitive claims made to ACC is increasing.81 ACC estimates that only 19 per cent of sexual violence incidents are reported to them, based on the estimation of underreporting recorded in the NZCASS.82

2.20Although a claim must be lodged to access ACC-funded support, sensitive claims clients do not need to have an accepted claim to access that support. Immediate support is offered to all sensitive claims clients immediately on lodging a claim. For many, this support is sufficient, and they do not require long-term or specialised support or treatment. Clients can withdraw from and return to support at any time during their recovery. A sensitive claim would therefore only need to be accepted to receive long-term or specialised support and treatment.

2.21Since ACC has redesigned its sensitive claims services (the Integrated Services for Sensitive Claims (ISSC)), going live in 2014, ACC expects more people to access its sensitive claims services and accordingly has forecast increased spend to meet anticipated increased demand. As a matter of course, ACC gathers claims-based client data. In support of the ISSC, ACC has initiated a data-based monitoring and reporting project, which will allow ACC to better understand clients’ service experiences and outcomes. ACC will apply this data to continuously improve its sensitive claims services, ensuring they remain responsive to clients’ needs.83

Specialist sexual violence support sectorTop

2.22Many victims may seek assistance from the non-government support sector rather than departments such as ACC. One community-based service provider working in the sexual violence sector receives an average of 15,000 calls to its crisis support lines every year.  A recently established 0800 national crisis support line specifically for people affected by sexual violence is receiving an average of 220 calls per month just to that 0800 number, and another key community-based service provider that specialises in working with children affected by sexual violence provided support to over 650 people in 2014.  These figures are representative of only three agencies from the sector, and as a whole, the sector lacks funding to be able to collate national statistics.84
2.23Women’s Refuge states it receives 82,000 calls annually on its crisis/support line and that in the year 2010/11 nearly 25,000 women and children used its services.85 These figures include both family violence and sexual violence, and a victim may use the crisis/support line more than once.
7519.3 per cent of women and 4.2 per cent of men report having been victims of sexual violence: Morris and Reilly New Zealand National Survey of Crime Victims 2001, above n 72, at 166. We note that the survey size was limited at 57 respondents. The 12 month prevalence in the 2001 survey was 0.8 per cent for men and 4.5 per cent for women.
76Ministry of Justice The New Zealand Crime & Safety Survey: 2014, above n 67, at 51.
77Mayhew and Reilly The New Zealand Crime & Safety Survey: 2006, above n 68, at 53.
78Mayhew and Reilly The New Zealand Crime & Safety Survey: 2006, above n 68, at 53; Morrison, Smith and Gregg The New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey: 2009 – Main Findings Report, above n 68, at 30. We assume these figures relate to calendar year as there is no indication that the reference is to fiscal year (or other definitional reference).
79Mayhew and Reilly The New Zealand Crime & Safety Survey: 2006, above n 68, at 105.
80Ministry of Justice The New Zealand Crime & Safety Survey: 2014, above n 67.
81Meeting between the Law Commission and ACC (7 January 2015). See also Accident Compensation Corporation “How do I make a claim? – Sensitive claims” <>.
82Meeting between the Law Commission and ACC (7 January 2015).
83Meeting between the Law Commission and ACC (27 May 2015) and email from Hayden Calderwood, ACC to the Law Commission (2 October 2014).
84Meeting between TOAH-NNEST and the Law Commission (14 September 2015).
85“New Zealand domestic violence statistics” Women’s Refuge <>.