Govt takes lead in action against sexual violence

Published: Tue 20 Mar 2007 02:22 PM
Hon Lianne Dalziel
Minister of Women’s Affairs
Hon Mark Burton
Minister of Justice
20 March 2007 Media Statement
Govt takes lead in action against sexual violence
The Labour-led government is acting to effectively address sexual violence by responding to community calls for a taskforce on this complex issue.
Justice Minister Mark Burton and Women's Affairs Minister Lianne Dalziel today announced the establishment of a ministerial group supported by an expert taskforce to provide leadership and greater co-ordination of services, reinforcing the government's commitment to combatting sexual violence.
Lianne Dalziel said the impact of sexual violence on its victims cannot be overstated.
"We know that many victims may choose not to report attacks because the investigation and trial process is difficult, traumatic and embarrassing. Victims fear that they may not be believed. Many victims drop out of the criminal justice system well before a conviction is obtained and we've already committed to research looking at how to best support them through the system.
"As well as the physical and mental health impacts on victims, the cost to the community through the health, justice and social systems is significant, so eliminating sexual violence must be a priority," Lianne Dalziel said.
Justice Minister Mark Burton said sexual violence is an important and far-reaching issue which is already the subject of work being undertaken by a range of dedicated and skilled people and agencies.
“We need the combined wisdom and experience and then a co-ordinated response from everyone working in this area in order to be more effective in targetting, resourcing and managing this serious social issue,” Mark Burton said.
The sexual violence ministerial group comprises the Ministers of Justice, Women’s Affairs, ACC and Police. This group will be supported by a taskforce comprised of chief executives of relevant departments, independent Crown entities, non-governmental organisations and the Chief Justice or her representative. The taskforce’s role will be to advise the government on how to reduce the incidence and impact of sexual violence and to take a strategic view of where government money is best spent to tackle it.
The new group is modelled on the highly effective family violence ministerial group and its supporting Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families, but the issues are different and require targetted action, Mark Burton said.
The draft terms of reference will be discussed with groups working in the field of sexual violence at a sexual violence hui later this week (24-25 March).
Background and FAQs on the Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence
Why do we need a Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence?
* NGOs and others working in the area of sexual violence have called for a taskforce to examine the effectiveness of the criminal justice system responses to sexual offending against adults. This includes reducing sexual offending, improving justice-related outcomes for victims, and holding offenders accountable for their actions.
* The taskforce will provide a way for government, NGOs and the judiciary to work together to address the social, health and economic impacts of sexual violence and will build on the work of the Sexual Violence Project Team (SVPT), activity already undertaken through the Safer Communities Action Plan to Reduce Community Violence and Sexual Violence, and will complement the work of the Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families.
In what ways does sexual violence cost the New Zealand economy?
* In 2003-04, sexual offences are estimated to have cost New Zealand $1.2 billion. This includes the cost to public agencies of preventing and dealing with the consequences of sexual assault, and direct social and economic costs to the private sector and victims of sexual assault. This equates to approximately $72,130 for each sexual offence, making sexual offending by far the most costly crime.
What are some of the health and social costs of sexual violence?
* Some of the health consequences of sexual violence include reproductive problems such as gynaecological complications and sexually transmitted diseases; and mental health problems including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal behaviour.
* Social problems associated with sexual victimisation include ostracism (victims made to feel that they are to blame for the sexual violence perpetrated against them), poor self-esteem and feelings of isolation and helplessness, often leading to impaired vocational and social functioning.
Who commits sexual violence?
* In New Zealand, sexual violence is most often committed by someone the victim knows rather than by a ‘dangerous stranger’. The 2001 New Zealand National Survey of Crime Victims found that three-quarters of sexual violence offences are committed by people known to the victims: this includes partners and ex-partners, close friends, workmates and family members.
What will the taskforce do?
* The taskforce will lead and co-ordinate interagency action to effectively address sexual violence. It will support the Sexual Violence Ministerial Group, which will provide leadership and highlight the government's commitment to addressing this critical social issue.
* The draft terms of reference propose to cover:
- prevention initiatives and reducing re-offending
- the provision of services to sexual assault victims
- criminal justice system responses to sexual offending
- how victims of sexual violence are supported through the criminal justice system.
NGOs working in the field and other interested parties will be consulted on the draft terms of reference, which will then be reported back to Cabinet by the Ministers of Justice and Women's Affairs for confirmation.
When will the taskforce begin and how long will it continue?
* The taskforce will run from July 2007 until July 2009.
How will the taskforce be structured?
* The sexual violence taskforce will be overseen by a small ministerial group, comprising the Ministers of Police, Justice, Women’s Affairs and ACC.
* It will include nine chief executives from the major agencies that directly influence outcomes for adult victims of sexual violence. The taskforce will be chaired by the chief executive of the Ministry of Justice. The chief executive of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs will be the deputy chair. The Taskforce will also include chief executive-level representatives from three NGOs, and a representative from the judiciary.
* The taskforce work programme will be implemented by an interagency Sexual Violence Project Team, chaired by the Ministry of Justice. Expert advice will be provided by a reference group made up of NGOs and others working in the area of adult sexual violence.
Why is the taskforce focusing on adult victims?
* Issues for adult and child victims of sexual violence are very different. The dynamics of offending and the experience of the criminal justice system for the two different groups of victims are not comparable. Concerns have been raised about adult victims’ experiences of the criminal justice system – including those adults who have experienced historical abuse.
Will issues for male victims and others be considered?
Yes. The taskforce will look at issues for all adult victims, including: Māori; Pacific; ethnic, migrant and refugee; victims with disabilities; male victims; rural victims; older victims.
How is it different from the Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families?
* The Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families (TAVF) is working to eliminate all forms of violence within families, including physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Its focus is on both adult and child victims.
* The sexual violence taskforce will complement the work of the TAVF. In New Zealand, sexual violence is most often committed by someone the victim knows rather than by a ‘dangerous stranger’. Sexual violence is therefore often part of the broader dynamic of violence within families. Information on the dynamics of family sexual violence will be shared between the two taskforces.
How can people provide input into the terms of reference?
Enquiries can be made to the taskforce secretariat at the Ministry of Justice by contacting Joy Austin on (04) 496 3352. Write to: PO Box 180, Wellington or email joy.austin[at]

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