Following last months brutal campsite rape of a 5 year old Belgian girl in Turangi Dr Kim McGregor, Executive Director of Rape Prevention Education has written an open letter to John Key.
Dr McGregor calls for a Task-force on Action on Sexual Violence to be set-up in New Zealand and cites some horrendous child abuse figures.
Far from being a great place to raise kids, the high level of sexual violence in New Zealand impacts 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 8 boys under the age of 16 years. For more about the significant problems of raising children in New Zealand please see our Education and Childrens Issues facts page.
“Dear Prime Minister,
To most New Zealanders the brutal sexual assault of the sleeping 5 year old girl in Turangi just before Christmas was a shocking and shameful incident.
Prime Minister, I really hope that this incident will provide the catalyst needed for your government to begin to implement the Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence (TASV) report recommendations given to your government in July 2009.
When referring to the taskforce report, the previous Minister of Justice, Simon Power, stated that, our sector represented by Te Ohaakii a Hine National Network Ending Sexual Violence Together (TOAH NNEST), “as a part of the Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence, is responsible for the most comprehensive roadmap on sexual violence prevention and services that any Government has ever received”. He also said “and now what you need is an assurance that the Government not only backs your work, but is prepared to pay for it”. (Speech April 2010)
As you will be aware, few of the taskforce recommendations have been implemented and rather than your government resourcing our specialist services, our sector’s capacity to prevent and deal with the high levels of sexual violence in our country has been diminished in the last two years – especially since the withdrawal of $6 million per annum of counselling support (from $10.6 million in 2007/2008 to $4.5 million in 2010/2011 see OIA attached).
Prime Minister, as you will be aware, every community in New Zealand has people who perpetrate sexually harmful behaviours as well as people who have experienced sexual violence. You will also know that such sexual violence is preventable.
Lessons need to be learned from the appalling incident in Turangi, so that we as a nation can join together to protect other children from the sexual violence that currently impacts approximately 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 8 boys under the age of 16 years in this country.
Although rarely by a stranger, every year a few of these thousands of children throughout the country will experience one-off brutal incidents similar to the one reported in Turangi. Others will experience regular sexual violations that may be repeated over months or even years. What vary are the victims’ ages and the relationship of the offender to the child.
While most on-going experiences of sexual violence are less outwardly brutal, they are still likely to be traumatic and have long-term negative health and social impacts.
Without intervention and specialist support, child sexual violence is potentially life-threatening. Common on-going effects of child sexual violence can include a lifetime of anxiety, and serious depressions that can develop into harmful behaviours towards the self and/or others.
Mostly there are no witnesses to child sexual violence that happens every day in our country – usually behind closed doors within the child’s home or community.
Commonly the child is prevented from speaking of the crime for a variety of reasons including that the child is groomed to feel they are to blame, is threatened, or, the sex offender is someone close to the child or is a valued member of the child’s community.
If child-victims do ever speak about sexual violence, often it is not until they are adults. This is sometimes when they first look for counselling help.
Many of those who commit sexually harmful behaviours begin with concerning sexualised behaviours in childhood. While some of these behaviours will stop in childhood, without early detection and intervention, by teenage years or early twenties, some of these behaviours may have escalated and become entrenched, impacting many child and/or adult victims – sometimes over many years. A few offenders will also commit brutal attacks similar to the assault committed in Turangi.
Prime Minister, what is required to prevent sexual violence is the increased resourcing that Minister Power referred to and also leadership that extends beyond elections and the term of a single Minister. To keep our children safe, our communities need a government and a specialist sector joined together in a determined effort and sustained over many years.
Please help us by providing the leadership necessary to establish an on-going forum or process so that government Ministers and relevant Ministries can continue to work with our specialist TOAH NNEST sector to make children in this country safe from sexual violence.
There are some simple and achievable actions your government can take immediately. These recommendations were given to your government in the Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence report in July 2009 (see the Ministry of Justice website). Key actions include, please:
reinstate the Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence that for the first time ever in our country provided leadership through a joint government partnership with specialist Maori and Tauiwi sector representatives.
Two years of the Taskforce (2007-2009) was not enough. We had only just begun the huge amount of work required to make our communities safe from sexual violence;
approve and resource the first ever National Sexual Violence Prevention Plan that was developed over the two years of the Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence.
It is unclear why the National Sexual Violence Prevention Plan was scrapped before it was to be approved by Cabinet in 2010. This Plan would have been the first of its kind in New Zealand and would have helped us catch-up to many other countries whose governments have taken an active leadership role in sexual violence prevention; and
provide realistic and sustained funding to our poorly resourced TOAH NNEST specialist sexual violence prevention and intervention frontline services that include early intervention programmes for children with concerning sexualised behaviour.
Our early intervention programmes offer the best hope of identifying early, children who are at risk of later sexual offending, and intervening to prevent this occurring. There are hundreds of children and youths and their families throughout the country who want and need our early interventions that will help to stop further sexual violations. While we have excellent specialist community treatment services throughout the country, these services are currently insufficiently resourced to help increase the safety in all of our communities.
Our TOAH NNEST support services aim to provide every area in New Zealand with specialist child, youth and adult, forensic, medical and psychological early intervention support services, on-going phone and face-to-face individual, and family counselling, criminal justice support services and, where possible, specialist family reintegration and restorative justice services.
Sexual violence against children in New Zealand happens on a daily basis and affects approximately 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 8 boys under the age of 16 years.
Sexual violence is preventable.
To avoid further sexual attacks on our children I implore you to:
implement the recommendations in the Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence report
reinstate the Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence
approve and resource the drafted National Sexual Violence Prevention Plan.”
replace the $6 million saved from cuts to our services, and
provide our services with realistic and sustainable funding so that we can provide New Zealanders with the specialist services they need to work to prevent and deal with the huge levels of sexual violence that every community in the country deals with every day.
Sexual violence is a complex social issue. It is hugely costly to survivors of sexual violence, their families, and communities, and the taxpayer. It is by far the most costly crime per incident. Treasury estimated that sexual violence directly cost the economy $1.2 billion in 2003-2004, and the cost now could be as high as $7.5 billion per year.
Our frontline services aim to provide those affected by sexual violence with vital, and often life-saving, early and on-going support, for the years that it often takes to deal with the trauma that follows.
Every community should have access to our wrap-around specialist sexual violence support services including our prevention, early intervention, on-going counselling and court support services, specifically tailored to meet the needs of children, youth, adults and their families.