© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

No increase in sexual assault, despite family harm spike

Antoinette Spicer
MPOTY 2014 Family Advocacy Program illustration showing the effects of domestic violence v3

A family advocacy service has reported no increase in sexual assault, despite a spike in family harm call-outs in Christchurch.

Figures released by Aviva Families (formerly Christchurch Women's Refuge) show in the weekend after the lockdown, there was one day that saw a 100 percent increase in family incidents reported to the Police.

Police callouts in Christchurch increased by 22 percent, to an average of 44 incidents, nearly one incident every 30 minutes. The number of incidents involving children increased 36 percent.

Aviva spokesperson Josephine Hoyne said although the organisation had seen an increase in family violence, it had seen no increase in calls to its Sexual Assault Support Service Canterbury (SASSC) 24/7 hotline.

“Family and sexual violence reporting does not represent the full scope of the situation. It was noted within our service after the earthquakes and Mosque shootings that throughout the immediate time following, reporting seemed to decline for a period. However, as people began to return to ‘normal life’, the reports began to rise significantly. We expect this may be a similar situation.”

She said for those experiencing regular sexual violence in their homes, especially for children, there had "likely been an increase in violence that the reports do not accurately reflect''.

Lockdown measures had also made it harder for the organisation to support people.

Hoyne said Aviva was expecting a loss in donations of up to 30 percent this year, due to the cancellation of major fundraising events over the coming months.

“With no open doors to easily walk in to ask for help, clients need to look to phone access or emails,” Hoyne explained.

“This is restrictive for some with some essential services limited in access, eg WINZ and housing services. These pose barriers to actively and swiftly supporting people. The pressure within some homes will continue to rise and risks will rise for people.”

Hoyne said although face-to-face services were extremely limited, staff would continue to regularly support clients with safety plans, housing, financial plans, food, and advocacy, through phone and video.

“Our priority is to keep people safe – from family and sexual violence as well as COVID-19. Our 24/7 support line remains our first point of contact for most, with enquiries via our website.”

To help Cantabrians overcome violence and stay safe during these hard times donate at emergency.avivafamilies.org.nz.