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Services for sexual assault and rape victims under threat

Emergency services for sexual assault and rape victims will have to be drastically cut following National Government funding decision

“We have no choice but to cut essential services for victims of rape and sexual abuse despite an earlier government promise to maintain adequate and sustainable funding for the services” said HELP spokesperson, Aimee Stockenstroom. HELP, Auckland specialist sexual abuse agency, is today beginning the reluctant process of restructuring that will result in decreased services.

Crisis Service Manager Aimee Stockenstroom said “Despite working intensely with a range of government departments right up to the last minute and requests to meet with Minister Paula Bennett, we have not obtained sufficient funding to keep the 24 hour telephone crisis line operating. With only one month’s funding left, we have been forced to begin a process of cuts and redundancies throughout the organisation.”

Last year in December the service was under threat of closure. After an overwhelming response from the public in support of HELP the government made a commitment to a cross government process to ensure that the crisis services would be sustainably funded.

Ms. Stockenstroom said that she is surprised by this lack of response from the government because they have repeatedly told the public that they will retain front line staff and have a focus on helping victims of crime. “Surely victims of rape and sexual abuse require specialised front line crisis and therapy services. Without this, sexual violence can cause long term mental health problems, costing the country billions of dollars. We only need $144,000. It’s not much to support thousands of traumatised women, children and families” she said.

Ironically, HELP has just celebrated 30 years of specialist service provision to sexually abused and raped women and children in Auckland. “We were set up because police and doctors recognised that rape and sexual abuse victims require specialist help. Non-specialists, no matter how well meaning, can inadvertently cause harm to traumatised victims and make it more difficult for police, justice and medical professionals to carry out their work in relation to the crime that has been committed.” says Aimee Stockenstroom “HELP is committed to continuing to provide this specialist support in some form, to victims, their families and the professionals who work with them.”

ends

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