Social services are under strain as more people seek support for incidents of sexual violence.© 2017 Fairfax New Zealand Ltd
Abuse and Rape Crisis Support Manawatu (ARCS) manager Ann Kent said the service was at capacity and had extended its hours in Palmerston North and Horowhenua, yet it still hadn't made a dent in its waiting list.
There was a two-to-three-month waiting list at ARCS for its counselling services.
The number of Manawatū people claiming ACC support for sexual violence cases had also spiked in the past year.
Figures released by ACC show there was a 24.2 per cent spike in claims made in the Manawatū District in the past financial year.
People who have experienced sexual abuse or sexual assault can lodge a sensitive claim with ACC and seek cover and entitlements for treatment, rehabilitation and compensation.
The number of sensitive claims made in Palmerston North increased by 16.3 per cent between 2015/16 and 2016/17.
Manawatū District claim costs reached $930,000 in the past year, with $2.5 million in costs paid to claims in Palmerston North.
Palmerston North was just below the national increase, which was up 16.5 per cent.
ACC redesigned its sensitive claim service in 2014 to improve accessibility, but figures between 2012 and 2017 show a gradual increase in claims in the Manawatū area.
Kent said the ACC system was great, but the current demand on counselling services was challenging and they were not able to keep up.
"I'm not aware of any agencies that are not experiencing an extra demand."
In an ideal world, counselling services would be offered to people there and then, but it was not realistic, she said.
During the nearly 10 years Kent had been a manager at the service, she had seen staff and client numbers jump.
Client numbers for counselling had remained steady in the past two years, but that was due to services already being at capacity, she said.
The service had expanded over time to keep up with demand, but there was no more funding available for further expansion.
Kent was unable to say whether there had been any increase in incidents of sexual violence.
"We believe that a lot of the increase is due to people being prepared to come forward to get support rather than keep silent about the abuse that they have experienced."
Police figures show reports of sexual assault and related offending tended to fluctuate monthly in the Central District.
There were 553 reports made in 2016 in the Central District, which includes Manawatū, Whanganui and Taranaki.
So far there had been 270 reports in the first six months of 2017.
Although there had not been a national campaign against sexual violence specifically, Kent said the 'It's Not OK' domestic violence campaign likely benefited the cause.
About 40 per cent of cases of violence between partners also involved sexual violence, she said.
Although there was a waiting list, Kent said social work services were still offered to people in the meantime. She encouraged people to come forward and use the services.
"What we don't want is for people to feel alone in this. We don't want them to feel completely isolated."
Green Party spokeswoman Jan Logie understood the pressure services were under, as some organisations had already raised concerns with her about heavy staff case loads.
Research showed only about one in 10 victims of sexual violence were reported.
"What we are seeing at the moment is still the tip of the iceberg."
However Logie said two-to-three-month waiting lists were too long.
A person may have waited 20 years before the trauma became too much and they finally sought help from a service. Those people needed help there and then.
Although preventative work was under way, there was still a lot of work to be done, she said.
A free national sexual violence helpline is scheduled to go live to the public on December 1, rolled out by the Ministry of Social Development.