My submission on the inquiry into the funding of specialist sexual violence social services

To the Social Services Committee,

  1. I am deeply concerned with the lack of funding in the sexual violence sector. I feel this substandard funding has been such a longstanding issue for the sector that it is only testament to the strength and dedication of staff that these agencies continue to survive.
  2. Sexual violence is something many people would rather ignore. Government cannot push for more corporate funding, or expect communities to make up the shortfall in funding for agencies which deal with such taboo subjects.
  3. Given the lack of funding, many agencies are unable to do the work they know would help their communities fight sexual violence. This includes primary prevention work like education, campaigns, and advocacy.
  4. Often agencies are only able to provide limited counseling and support, the latter of which is sometimes more immediately crucial to survivors than counseling. For instance, it’s hard to work on healing when you are not sure where you are going to live.
  5. Current Government funding often comes from illogical funding streams. For instance, much of Wellington Rape Crisis’ Government funding is from Child Youth and Family. For agencies in this position who work with women (many of whom do not have children) and their loved ones, this funding doesn’t make much sense. Nor do they feel able to advocate for more logical funding streams, in case they lose what small funding they currently have.
  6. Wellington Rape Crisis is currently only able to remain open 5 days a week due to Hell Pizza coming up with their publicised budget deficit. Hell Pizza did so after coming under fire for giving free pizza to someone who sexually assaulted their friend as part of a ‘worst friend’ competition. It is unfortunate and, frankly, sickening that Wellington Rape Crisis was in the position where they had to accept funding from Hell or close their doors to clients who needed them.
  7. Auckland Sexual Abuse HELP has, for the second funding round in a row, needed huge community rallying and petition-signing to keep their helpline open after the Government declined to continue funding it. This helpline is the only one of its kind in Auckland, and HELP should not need to organise pressure campaigns to convince the Government to change its mind every funding round.
  8. It is extremely worrying that the Government would seek to close this service in the face of overwhelming evidence that a 24 hour helpline allows anonymity and a gradual move to face-to-face support, that many survivors prefer when first reaching out for help.
  9. Men, transgender, intersex, Māori, Pacific and migrant survivors currently have limited options, especially depending on where they live, to access specialty sexual violence services. The Government should see this as unacceptable.
  10. Staff in sexual violence services are hugely underpaid. They do incredibly harrowing work for very little. The Government needs to value their skills and the agencies they work for by enabling fair salaries to be a reality for people who do such important work.
  11. We know from work the Ministry of Justice did in 2007 that roughly 1 in 4 women will experience ‘unwanted and distressing sexual contact’ in her lifetime. We also know that many women will not admit that they have been the victim of sexual violence. Men are even less likely to come forward.
  12. The Youth 2012 survey by the University of Auckland states that 20% of female and 9% of male secondary school students will have been touched in an unwanted sexual way or made to do unwanted sexual things.
  13. This means that the rate of survivors of sexual violence in New Zealand is disturbingly high. Because perpetrators are most commonly known to the victim, and we live in a society that still (both consciously and subconsciously) blames victims (especially women) for enabling their assaults, coming forward to access support is all too rare.
  14. When you consider how stretched existing sector agencies are, and the knowledge that those clients are just the tip of the iceberg, how can the Government not commit to fully supporting this work?

 

I request that the Select Committee recommends the following:

  1. That the Government acknowledges (in word and action) that sexual violence sector agencies and their clients are best placed to articulate the needs of the sector.
  2. That specialist sexual violence services are appropriately funded to increase counseling and support to meet the needs of their communities.
  3. That funding is given to expand willing existing agencies, or create new agencies, that provide specialist support to men, transgender, intersex, Māori, Pacific and migrant peoples.
  4. That Government takes into consideration the highly skilled nature of the work staff in this sector do, and financially supports agencies to value this work more.
  5. That Government sees primary prevention of sexual violence, including education and campaigns, as critical to reduce the number of people experiencing sexual abuse in this country.
  6. That Government fund agencies to undertake primary prevention work.
  7. That Government fund agencies to undertake advocacy work.
  8. That Government implements a funding scheme that allows agencies to work in a more secure funding environment.

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