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TOAH NNEST response to the release of MOJ’s Report

Te Ohaaki a Hine-National Network Ending Sexual Violence Together (TOAH-NNEST), the specialist sexual violence sector network welcomes the Ministry of Justice’s newly released report Attrition and progression: Reported sexual violence victimisations in the criminal justice system.

This report depicts some of the difficulties experienced by New Zealanders who report Sexual Violence, including just 6 imprisonments resulting from every 100 Sexual Violence incidents reported. The release of the report demonstrates a willingness to address the problems and provides a much needed baseline from which progress can be tracked over time. The whole system requires change as the problems are not isolated to one area of the justice process.

Maggy Tai Rakena, Tauiwi Caucus Chair says “ We note from the report that victims/survivors are generally more satisfied when reporting to the police and there has been an increase in reporting overall. This tells an important story about how we can keep improving the system for those impacted by sexual harassment, abuse and violence. The 2005-2007 Bazley police inquiry identified key areas for improvement and the Police, together with the sexual violence specialist sector and advocates like Louise Nicholas, have created significant positive change”.

While the attrition rates have not significantly improved, the detail of who the victims are and their relationship to the person committing the sexual offences can help guide prevention and early intervention strategies.

Russell SMITH, of TOAH-NNEST Nga Kaitiaki Mauri says “We are pleased to see this level of attention being paid to this longstanding problem. The hope is this will lead to engaging in a more empathic way where whānau Maori are effectively heard and appropriately responded to. The report confirmed our anecdotal knowledge and the evidence is clear in the report, so we expect better outcomes for whānau traversing the justice system."
TOAH-NNEST recently consulted their member agencies and identified seven areas where the current criminal justice system is not working for victims/survivors. These are:
• It is not effective in holding those who have caused harm to account.
• The criminal justice system does not prioritise the safety and other needs of children
• The Family Court does not prioritise the safety and other needs of children
• Victims/survivors feel incidental to the trial process, which replicates the dynamics of the sexual violence
• Victims/survivors can be further traumatised by the trial process
• No amends are made to the victim/survivor
• No resolutions are made to the relationships destroyed by sexual violence
• Most victims/survivors want the person who harmed them to not do it to anyone else, but most of those convicted of sexual offences do not get appropriate treatment

In partnership with our members TOAH-NNEST have identified the following recommendations:
1. Expand support and service provision of Kaupapa Māori services for victims throughout the criminal justice system.
a. The current criminal justice system lacks understanding of the needs of Māori survivors of sexual violence and the particular kinds of trauma that this harm engenders when coupled with the impacts of colonisation. Currently, the adversarial process does not work well for Māori victims/survivors of sexual violence as the environment can be unfamiliar and does not accommodate whānau or tikanga.
2. Prioritise the safety and other needs of children who have been sexually abused in the Criminal Justice System and the Family Court.
a. The criminal justice process is often inappropriate for children as its primary focus is on the needs of adults. For example, the way that evidence is tested by confrontational questioning, the impersonality of the process, the time delays, the lack of support available from a parent if they are also a witness, the lack of convictions which result and the short sentences without treatment which result, are all in need of reform.
3. Increase access to treatment and support families.
a. Relationships within families, whanau and friendship groups can be destroyed by sexual violence and its path through the criminal justice system. Court processes and low conviction rates encourage a culture of denial rather than responsibility taking.
4. Improvement of rights for victims/survivors to improve justice outcomes and avoid replication of the dynamics of the sexual violence.
a. The rights and needs of the person who caused harm are consistently prioritised over the rights and needs of the person who was harmed.
5. Improve trial process.
a. The adversarial process (and jury system) places undue pressure on victims/survivors, who – unlike the defendant – do not have enforceable trial rights enshrined within legislation. Concomitant with such lack of agency is the frequent experience of themselves being “put on trial” for credibility, rather than the actions of the accused perpetrator. This process is inappropriate and frequently traumatising for criminal trials for sexual offences, especially due to the operation of rape myth acceptance.
6. Rape myth acceptance removed from the court process.
a. Clarification of the nature of consent.
7. Criminal justice process to be trauma informed.
a. Training of all of those involved in the system, including content regarding rape myth, trauma and appropriate language to use when interacting with victims/survivors of sexual violence.
8. Further improvements to police practice.
a. Establish a system outside of the IPCA, for review of police charging decisions in sexual violence cases.
b. Increase specialisation and training of police regarding sexual violence victimisation and improved implementation and training behind the Adult Sexual Assault Investigation Policy.
Creating sexual violence free communities is possible and we need coordinated efforts to change and address what is not working. Undersecretary Jan Logie is working hard to achieve improvements across the system and the Joint Venture cross departmental approach is vital to positive outcomes.

Where to get help:
• Safe to talk - 0800 044 334, free text 4334, webchat and info at www.safetotalk.nz, email support@safetotalk.nz (24/7)

• Tu Wahine – Kaupapa Māori Crisis Service – 09 838 8700

• Korowai Tumanako – Kaupapa Māori Survivor and Harmful Sexual Behavior Support Service website: https://www.korowaitumanako.org/ Email: korowai@korowaitumanako.org

• Te Puna Oranga – Kaupapa Māori Crisis Service - 0800 222 042 Email: info@tepunaoranga.co.nz

• Rape Crisis – 0800 88 33 00 for support after rape or sexual assault

• Male Survivors Aotearoa – support for the well-being of male survivors of sexual abuse www.malesurvivor.nz

• Shakti Crisis Line – 0800 742 584 for migrant or refugee women living with family violence (24/7)

• Women’s Refuge Crisis Line – 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE) for women living with violence, or in fear, in their relationship or family (24/7)

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