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Advocates Delighted Young People Will Get Help They Need

MEDIA RELEASE: Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Abuse Delighted Young People Will Get Help They Need

1 in 3 girls in New Zealand may be sexually assaulted before their 16th birthday, and 1 in 7 boys. HELP, a support agency for sexual abuse survivors, welcomes the Government’s announcement that it will launch online counselling for survivors as part of their plan for a 24/7 crisis response.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with this announcement,” says HELP Executive Director Kathryn McPhillips. “By counselling young people online when they really need us, we can be there for young people where they spend much of their time, and where they feel safest.”

The Youth12 survey results released today show just how prevalent sexual abuse is for NZ’s young people. More than 1 in 10 young people had unwanted sexual contact from a boyfriend or girlfriend, and many of them were under 14 at the time.

The need for online support for young people recently highlighted by Eva McGauley, a 16 year dying of cancer. Many of Eva’s friends have been sexually assaulted, and none of them knew where to get help. Eva was also concerned that services were hard to access, and weren’t youth-focussed. “I’m so glad the needs of young people like me are being listened to.”, says Eva. “The Ministry of Social Development have asked me to be involved in helping them develop the online counselling, which I’m really looking forward to”.

The Government’s support for online counselling is a huge step forward for making Eva’s wish for a place that is safe for New Zealand’s children come true. The next step is to raise vital funds for HELP, a charity that supports children and young people affected by sexual abuse. Eva is hoping to raise $50,000 for young people who have been sexually assaulted. You can learn more about Eva’s dying wish here.

HELP is passionate about using online services to reach out to young people, particularly as a route to more specialist help. “We’ve very been interested in an online service for many years as it can reach so many people. This feels like it could be the start of something really exciting for New Zealand.” HELP commissioned independent research in 2012 that found that young people didn’t see sexual abuse services as being for them.

To reach young survivors online, HELP has recently launched Em, a supportive website for young women. Em is a one of a kind website that helps young women learn from each other and support each other through tough times. It also provides a route to connect young women who have been assaulted to specialist services if needed.

This was particularly concerning as young people aged 16-24 are four times more likely to be assaulted than any other age group. Young people wanted to seek out support where they spend most of their time – online. We also know that teenagers tell their friends if they had been raped or assaulted, not their families. Their friends often don’t know what to do or say, so there is a clear need to help their friends be supportive.” says Kathryn.

Too often, traumatised young people are left alone, unsure of who to turn to after a sexual assault. HELP recently worked together with social change agency Curative to create and launch a new website and social change campaign, Em,(www.dearem.nz ) to help combat this. “We want to show young people that they aren’t alone, to help them get through it, and to connect them up with support if they need it”.

Em was developed by and for a group of young women from all walks of life. It features young women talking about how they got through tough times and interviews with inspirational women talking about how they got to where they are.

“Em is very different to a lot of other websites that are out there for teenagers – we’re not trying to sell you anything, we’re not particularly interested in celebrities unless they’re doing something empowering , and you don’t need to look a certain way.”, says Kathryn.

“Girls are sexualised from such a young age, and it sadly only gets worse the older you get. Dear Em is about giving girls a voice. We’re all stronger when we stand together. Em is about giving girls the tools they need to be resilient when life throws them in the deep end.” says Kathryn. “But it’s also making sure that HELP is where young people are when something happens – giving young people a route to support services if they’re needed.”

Anyone who needs support can call HELP on 09 623 1700 for 24/7 support. A youth counsellor is also contactable at hello@dearem.nz, though replies are not yet immediate.. Dear Em is a collaboration between HELP and Curative, a design agency that specialises in social change projects.

ABOUT HELP:

HELP is an Auckland-based not-for profit working to end sexual abuse in New Zealand for good. HELP provides crisis and therapy services, covering a population of 1 million. Sadly, sexual abuse is all too common in NZ, with 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys likely to be sexually abused before their 16th birthday, and 20% of women having experienced sexual assault.

HELP is there to support survivors. HELP provides a 24/7 crisis line and emergency call-out service for recent assaults, police interviews and medical examinations. HELP also provides face-to-face individual & family therapy for as long as needed. HELP supports survivors who choose to go through the court system, and also supports survivors through restorative justice processes.

HELP are also leaders in developing innovative digital campaigns to reach all of NZ, including newly launched www.dearem.nz to reach the 180,000 young women between 13 and 18 in New Zealand who may have been sexually assaulted. Learn more about HELP at: www.helpauckland.org.nz

ENDS

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