On combatting sexual violence, the government has finally begun to undo some of the problems that were of its own making. Early in March, ACC launched the Integrated Services for Sensitive Claims scheme – a package aimed at improving the attitudes of ACC staff towards sexual violence victims, and offering them more substantive support. Hopefully, this will help to reverse the damage done with the insensitive, punitive ACC policy put in place by the incoming Key government in 2009, which in some parts of New Zealand, saw 90 per cent of sexual violence victims being turned away by ACC.© 2015 Scoop Media
As well as this new support scheme, ACC is also increasing its annual funding of sexual violence prevention education, from a paltry $1 million to $4 million, a figure still seen as inadequate by experienced workers in the field.
In addition, Justice Minister Amy Adams has invited the Law Commission to revisit its work on possible changes to the pre-trial and courtroom procedures faced by sexual complainants. The Police however, continue to be one of the glaring problem areas. The report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority into the Police handling of the so called “Roastbusters” group in Auckland not only disagreed with the Police rationale for not initiating a prosecution under the Crimes Act – ultimately, the Police decided that a prosecution would not be in the public interest, given the young age of some of the offenders. It was a stance that completely ignored the even younger age of some of the victims.
The IPCA also faulted (as being inadequate to non-existent) the Police contact with the young men and their families. Arguably, not only was justice for the victims ill-served by the Police decision not to prosecute, but the deterrent/prevention aspect was completely neglected. In the words of the IPCA report, the Police “overlooked the importance of holding the young men accountable for their behavior, and preventing its recurrence.”
The conspicuous failure by Police over the Roastbusters incidents came despite the findings by the 2007 Commission of Inquiry into Police conduct (that had been initiated by the complaints made by Louise Nicholas). This inquiry had revealed a culture of misogyny and aberrant behaviour rife among the Police, at high levels of the Police hierarchy. So, unless the government is prepared to put some heat on the Police over its handling of sexual violence between adolescents and adults – and the subject was conspicuously absent from the Briefing to the Incoming Minister of Police in 2014 – then the concerns about sexual violence being expressed in Parliament this week will ring hollow.
Even the possible changes to pre-trial and courtroom treatment will not address the issue of prevention. As the initial Law Commission issues paper on those proposals pointed out, the approach being assessed “ does nothing to address the attitudes that led to the offending, and it accordingly fails to reduce the risk that the behaviour will recur.” It may seem both incredible and yet somehow unsurprising that – so long as some of the next America’s Cup racing is held in Auckland - the government would spend ten times the amount on that regatta than what ACC is currently putting into sexual violence prevention education.