More demand for rape crisis help

TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 08:42 03/04/2014

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Rape crisis centres are struggling under the weight of increased demand for services and a dwindling pool of funding.

Survivors of sexual violence and agencies supporting victims and offenders spoke at a parliamentary inquiry into funding of specialist sexual violence services yesterday.

Wellington Rape Crisis manager Eleanor Butterworth estimated that about 20 per cent of their staff hours were spent on completing funding applications and reports, but despite their efforts the agency is running on a deficit of up to $100,000 every year.

Butterworth said one in four women and one in eight men has experienced sexual violence, and as the stigma around it was broken down there would be greater demand to plan for.

If the cost of sexual violence was to be reduced - Treasury estimated it cost New Zealand $1.2 billion a year - resources needed to be put into education and prevention, she said.

"When it's not being dealt with it just pops up somewhere else in the system - 75 per cent of our clients have mental health diagnoses."

Abuse and Rape Crisis Support Manawatu manager Ann Kent said some clients had to wait three months for an appointment because the organisation could not keep up with demand.

"Our team is exhausted and frustrated by a lack of resources, but we continue to work hard for the services our clients need."

They were on track to see 10 per cent more clients this year than last, and the number of referrals from police in Manawatu had increased by half.

Kent said clients had high needs, with one likening her life after sexual violence to a war zone.

"She said every day feels like that for her, running to escape from a war that nobody can see. She feels under siege and too frightened to leave her home. 'My life is an empty existence - will it get better,' she asked."

Agencies that work with offenders and others who have demonstrated harmful sexual behaviour, some as young as five years old, also said funding was "piecemeal" and there were large gaps in service provision.

A number of submitters spoke about the need for specialist services or better trained staff for different cultural groups, transgender and intersex communities.

Nearly 1000 submissions were received on the inquiry, and more than 100 people are being heard by the committee this month and next month.

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- The Dominion Post

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