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Cross Party Commitment Critical In New Government Reducing Sexual Violence

Ministry of Justice data shows children and young people are victims of the most sexual violence in this country which has prompted an urgent call by a national peak body for a whole-of-government and cross-party commitment.

Te Ōhaakii ā Hine – National Network Ending Sexual Violence Together is alerting all Members of the House across the political spectrum to join forces to prioritise tackling sexual violence in its first 100-day work programme.

Representing 50 specialist agencies TOAH-NNEST believes now is the moment for sowing seeds of solidarity despite ideology or party policy differences given 90% of sexual violence is not reported.”

“Non-partisan, cross party cooperation is essential to accelerate progress in both prevention and elimination,” said Russell Smith, co-founder of Korowai Tumanako and TOAH-NNEST member.

“The diversity of culture, of gender, and of mindset in the House brings perspective that can only strengthen and benefit the sexual violence support space”, Smith and his colleagues believe.

Te Aorerekura, the 25-year National Strategy and Action Plan released in 2021 to eliminate family violence, and first ever strategy addressing sexual violence was progress but the community need remains great.

“The 200 percent increase in referrals to our crisis services providers across New Zealand in the last 6 years shows the depth of demand that’s not diminishing,” said Tauiwi Caucus members.

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“This isn’t because the Government isn’t doing a good job, in fact more people are receiving support because there are more referrals from Police and other agencies.”

With the new three-year term commencing, TOAH-NNEST sought field advice from members that provide rape and sexual abuse help including crisis response, recovery, and support counselling.

They shared what they thought the priorities were for the sector in the first 100 days.

The value of the 2019 Turuki Report with 12 recommendations on transformational approaches to justice published by MoJ was highlighted.

Angelo Libeau, Auckland Sexual Abuse HELP Foundation encourages more officials to read it.

“It was all about transforming the criminal justice system. We need the Crown agencies to actively engage with reports like this outlining urgency and bold moves which is what we need,”

The Government enabling more community collaboration in the design and development of resources to fit diverse settings to create safer environments to Pasifika communities, ethnic communities, and rainbow communities having unique and significant need has proved its worth strengthening engagement.

“Many people we meet say that the prevention work being done in their communities is increasing a sense of hope,” said Melanie Calvesbert, Sexual Harm & Response Advisor (SHAPRA).

Capacity and capability building the workforce is also paramount so services can constructively respond. Free or subsidised training in key areas may procure the next generation to work in the sector.

Opening up access to programs in prisons for offenders would be a major step forward given the lack currently.

A “twin track system” responding to violence led by disabled people working with Crown agencies such as Whaikaha, Justice, MSD and Health is another recommendation to better meet the needs of the disabled community.

Prevention and response services that are culturally and socio-linguistically competent for the deaf would aid women getting support which is difficult even when they are at twice the risk of being abused.

“Access to information in New Zealand Sign language (NZSL) is most important. In future we would like to see services provided by experienced Deaf professionals,” said Rachel Hargreaves, Deaf Aotearoa.

Funding more sector orientated research was tabled to strengthen the enduring form of the strategy.

“Let’s add evidence to Te Aorerekura to support the key areas that will make the most difference,” said Michelle Clayton of Family Action.

“Given the data in the sexual violence space, there needs to be more funding, not less,” said Kathryn McPhillips, Auckland Sexual Abuse HELP Foundation Executive Director.

Resourcing for more kaupapa Māori services is a high on the priority list due to the increasing numbers of whānau year-on-year requiring significant support.

“This is what we know and what the Government needs to keep doing,” Joy Te Waiata, co-founder of Korowai Tumanako said.

“We have had some good outcomes previously and hoping that those officials will be writing their Ministers in the same way that they have for the last three to six years.”

Amended legislation is another area of focus. TOAH-NNEST is filing submissions to the Justice Select Committee on the Victims of Sexual Violence (Strengthening Legal Protections) Legislation Bill.

 

“We need to protect children in court, adjust the legal definition of consent so we move away from “guessing the yes”, and give victims back the right to tell their own stories through review of how we manage name suppression,” Kathryn McPhillips said.

 

“We do need to be doing better by victims of serious crime – especially our next generation.”

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