Research show social cost of sexual violence

Sexual violence in New Zealand is significantly under-reported, with just 9 per cent of assaults reported, but it is our most costly crime with an estimated social cost of $1.2 billion per year.

This is one of the key findings in the Ministry of Women's Affairs report Responding to Sexual Violence: Attrition in the New Zealand criminal justice system - one of four related research reports released this month.

On a visit to Dunedin last week, Ministry chief executive Shenagh Gleisner told The Star sexual violence was a largely invisible crime and that family and friends needed to step up to help.

"The whole community needs to recognise the problem that sexual violence represents," Ms Gleisner said.

The four studies, tied together into the report Restoring Soul: Effective Interventions for Adult Victim/Survivors of Sexual Violence, arose from a two-year research project led by the Ministry of Women's Affairs in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and the New Zealand Police.

The report includes an analysis of about 2000 sexual violation cases recorded by police over a 30-month period.

Of these, only about 16 per cent proceeded to trial and 13 per cent resulted in a conviction.

The report showed that the reaction sexual violence survivors receive from friends and family is a crucial factor in their path to recovery.

A positive reaction helped survivors to take the next step toward recovery, or to report the crime to police, Ms Gleisner said.

"It is a sad fact that some victims can encounter disbelief, blame and ostracism.

It is absolutely critical that they are believed and supported when they find the courage to tell someone what has happened to them."

The report also dispelled some myths, including that of "stranger danger" rape, showing that most sexual violence was committed by someone known to the victim, Gleisner said.

The report and other research would go forward to government to help provide a basis for policy and operational responses.

"We will be strongly encouraging the use of this research across a broad range of agencies to help improve services and systems.

"However, we shouldn't just wait for the government to handle it - there is a great deal that everyone can do in their own homes and streets right now," Ms Gleisner said.

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