24 August 2017

$1.4m funding boost for campus sexual violence prevention

An article from The Wireless by Susan Strongman
ACC will spend $1.4 million over the next four years to help prevent campus sexual violence, in a move that aims to help change the culture around sexual violence and consent in New Zealand.
The money will go towards implementing a three-year action plan for preventing and responding to sexual violence within tertiary communities.
The action plan was announced today by New Zealand Union of Students Associations (NZUSA) director Alistair Shaw.
It includes reviews of tertiary education institutions’ policies on sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention; enhancing reporting systems and support for students; and training and education programmes for residential assistants, staff, and students.
ACC’s violence injury prevention portfolio manager Mike McCarthy said 22 percent of ACC’s sensitive claims in the 2016/17 financial year were from those aged 18-24. A sensitive claim is for mental or physical injuries such as those caused by sexually violent acts. Last year ACC paid out $103 million on treatment and entitlements on sensitive claims, McCarthy said.
“Our goal is to support young adults so they can experience safe, healthy and respectful relationships.
“We see this partnership as a great opportunity for ACC to work with NZUSA and tertiary institutions. Sexual violence and consent is a wider issue for New Zealand. Changing the culture around it is challenging for all of us.”
The announcement was made at today’s launch of the In Our Own Words report, which looks at at the experiences of tertiary students with sexual violence, education, harassment, institutional support services and reporting pathways, ableism, racism and LGBTQIA+ discrimination.
The report was penned by Thursdays in Black National Coordinator Izzy O’Neill and findings were based on responses received by more than 1400 students.
According to the report, more than 80 per cent of those who answered the question said that they thought sexual violence in student communities was a problem. 53 percent of respondents said they had experienced some form of sexual assault themselves and 49 percent of respondents suspected that a friend had been sexually assaulted.
These numbers are strikingly similar to the results of a survey of psychology students at the University of Auckland in 1991 by Nicola Gavey, which found 52 percent of women had experienced some form of sexual victimisation.
“In Our Own Words confirms that sexual violence does occur in tertiary and student communities. Now, something must be done about it,” O’Neill said.
Read the full report here.
© 2017 Radio New Zealand


16 August 2017

Months-long delays for rape victims' ACC support

A news report from Radio New Zealand by Sarah Robson

People who have been raped or sexually assaulted are sometimes having to wait months to access ACC-funded specialist support services.
Some counsellors and therapists in Auckland have lengthy waiting lists for appointments and others are not taking any new patients.
One woman, Jennifer*, was trying to find a new counsellor. She had gone through the process of reporting a historical rape and needed support. She started contacting people on ACC's list in the Auckland area.
"I found that there was roughly a two-month wait list, minimum, to see most counsellors. I mass-emailed many on the ACC list and many said that they were not taking on any new clients," she said.
"I found this quite distressing."
Through sheer luck and persistence, Jennifer has been able to find a new counsellor.
She said she was not impressed that she had been repeatedly told she would have to wait to get the help she needed.
"People who have been sexually assaulted often become suicidal or have other mental health issues. I found that a 60-day wait or longer to get funded counselling was very poor and not all survivors have the means to pay for a private counsellor."
HELP is an organisation that provides specialist support services to victims of sexual abuse and assault in Auckland. Executive director Kathryn McPhillips said, like other providers, it was facing delays for people trying to access its counselling or therapy services.
"That delay can be anywhere from a few weeks, up to six months, maybe even eight months at times," she said.
"Our crisis service provides support during that time, so people can ring in or they can have acute sessions with us if they need to, but yes, it can be months that people are waiting."
Ms McPhillips said victims were often reluctant to seek help until their situation became desperate.
"It's something people do usually when they've hit the wall, so when they feel like they're in crisis or they can't hold on anymore, or they really need this thing solved in their life, or the offender is coming out of prison. There's all sorts of things that trigger people to that point of needing help."
Part of the problem was changes made by ACC in November 2014, which reduced and removed barriers for people to access support after experiencing sexual violence, Ms McPhillips said. That led to an influx of people seeking help - without the necessary workforce there to cope.
"I think that people who were not able to access counselling before because it required some additional payment, once it was free then a whole lot of people were like, 'yes, I need some help, please help me now'.
"To be honest, services haven't been able to keep up with that demand."
Ms McPhillips said they needed more qualified staff, but they lacked the funding to do any specialist training themselves. However, the government had committed more resources to the sector which should help longer-term, she said.
Andrea Black from Rape Crisis said it was important that specialist support services for survivors of sexual assault and violence were adequately resourced.
"If you don't have enough people on the ground to provide that service, or enough resources to do that, it's really distressing.
"It's really upsetting for workers, for volunteers, for our skilled workers, but even more so for families who may have to wait for days or weeks to access a specialist support person," she said.
In a statement, ACC said it was aware of delays for counselling services in areas like Auckland, Dunedin and Rotorua, and was looking into why demand for services was greater than the number of providers. It said it was encouraging providers to employ more staff, and was working with professional organisations and tertiary institutions to boost the workforce.
ACC said its goal was to have no significant waiting period to accessing counselling and therapy services.
* Name has been changed


© Radio New Zealand 2017