Recent rallies around New Zealand and today’s handing over of a 111,000 strong petition against sexual violence show that it’s time for the Government to take strong action to create a better future for victims of sexual violence.
I made justice for victims of sexual violence one of my priorities in my Maiden speech
“I also carry with me into this House all too many stories of gender-based abuse and violence. One in three girls, one in seven boys, one in eleven women, and up to one in two trans-people will experience sexual abuse in this country.
Like most of you, I carry some of these stories etched into my heart from experience; my own, of others I love and those I have worked with through Women’s Refuge and Wellington Sexual Abuse Helpline. The people of these stories who have been victimised by what is predominantly men’s violence are from all ethnicities, of all ages, genders and sexualities, across an ability spectrum, and from every economic stratum.
It is important to me that I bring these stories into this House, because these stories need to be shared and the shame taken away from those holding the stories.
We representatives of the people of this country have a duty to honour the extraordinary strength of survivors and those who are healing by ensuring that first and foremost they have adequate support. They also need to see that we are working to prevent the same thing happening to others. We have a duty too to those perpetrating the abuse to help them learn the fulfillment that can come from equal relationships rather than ones of power and control.
It is not enough to have a taskforce. We need to implement the recommendations of those taskforces. And it is not acceptable that funding for sexual abuse counseling has been cut by half and domestic violence support services have effectively been cut, with a 12 per cent increase in workload. There are immediate changes we can make; they need to be a priority. For all our sakes. “
I am working to ensure that our shared outrage at the lack of justice for recent victims of sexual abuse can be harnessed to create real change. The solutions lie in secure funding for education and support services and in a stronger justice system,
We have had a good win on this first part of the solution. Our focus on achieving long term, secure funding for support services has succeeded in getting Parliament to hold an inquiry into this issue. The outcomes of that inquiry will let us give support services the security they need to get on and provide good support to victims of sexual violence instead of worrying about how to keep their services running day to day.
We felt an inquiry was essential because our survey of 22 specialist agencies last year showed over 1/3 of the 22 already stretched organisations had to consider cutting staff or services because of funding cuts and changes to funding criteria.
I think there is an opportunity now though to call on the Government to commit to a significant increase in funding before Christmas to ensure no more services are lost and the increased demand is able to be met now and in the future. The inquiry could then focus on the shape of service.