Sexual assaults becoming all too frequent in Queenstown - police

At the launch of the 'Don't Guess the Yes' campaign at the Queenstown police station recently are...
At the launch of the 'Don't Guess the Yes' campaign at the Queenstown police station recently are, from left, sergeant Chris Brooks, RespectEd Aotearoa chief executive Fiona McNamara, senior sergeant Ben Quinn, detective senior sergeant Malcolm Inglis and community constable Alex Cully. Photo: Scene
Three days after Queenstown’s cops warned hospitality workers to be vigilant over a rising number of sexual assaults, they were dealing with reports of yet another.

A male was the victim of the latest alleged attack, with detective senior sergeant Malcolm Inglis saying sexual violence is becoming all too frequent in the resort.

"Just because a female or male … had too much to drink, it doesn’t give anyone the right to think they are consenting to some form of sexual act,’’ Inglis says.

It was "not rampant’’ but there has been a definite upswing in sexual violence and assaults over the last year, he said.

"Any sexual assault is a concern to the police and should be to the community; we would certainly like to see the numbers that we have reduced — it happens too frequently for us.’’

He estimates there are at least three cases a month in Queenstown, but says incidents occur in Wanaka and Cromwell, too.

The majority of sexual crimes are being committed when the victim is drunk or using  drugs, often after a night out or at kick-ons, when friends put their intoxicated mate to bed.

"Their friends think they are doing the right thing and then there’s a sexual assault in their home — that would be the most regular example we see.’’

But Inglis refuses to lay any blame at the door of the victims, emphasising that being  drunk is not the same as giving consent.

He also warns of issues with dating apps like Tinder, and urges anybody using them to tell friends where they’re going.

Despite the issue being one predominantly found at home, police are hoping issues can be nipped in the bud early by educating bar staff to watch out for predatory behaviour.

Two weeks ago they launched a local version of the ‘Don’t Guess the Yes’ campaign, started in Wellington, and aimed squarely at tackling the perpetrators.

Bar staff packed the Queenstown police station, keen to hear ways to solve the issue.

Among them was Republic Hospitality Group finance boss Tracy Pool, who says it’s great the campaign is bringing the issue to the forefront of people’s minds.

"Most of the managers in the larger venues will walk the floor and they might be picking up a glass, but checking someone out.

"It’s part of your host responsibilities, in a lot of cases you can tell if people are not wanting attention, by listening and watching body language.’’

Republic runs some of Queenstown’s busiest venues including Winnies, The Ballarat, Habana Boutique Rum Bar and Sundeck, among others.

She says to tackle the issue, everybody needs to keep an eye out for people in uncomfortable positions and report it to bar staff.

But, she also wonders if the increased reports to police come from people realising they don’t have to put up with predatory behaviour.

Pool says Queenstown venues, security staff and police all use a Messenger group to keep live updates on troublesome patrons throughout the night.

And she can’t give enough praise to alcohol harm prevention cop Chris Brooks for his work
connecting the police and venues.

In February, Mountain Scene reported official police stats that recorded only one sexual crime in Queenstown Bay between July and December 2020.

Responding, Inglis says a big issue is the burden of proof needed to prosecute, which can see victims have to re-live painful experiences or piece together hazy memories.

It means witnesses are particularly key, because police need to prove a crime took place beyond all reasonable doubt, he adds.

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