Increase in sexual assault allegations shows shift in culture, survivors able to come forward, says charity

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The increase of sexual assault allegations did not mean that there is more sexual assault, but instead more people were able to come forward with their stories, says Sexual Abuse Prevention Network manager Fiona McNamara.

The Sexual Abuse Prevention Network says the increase in conversation around sexual abuse and harassment was helping to raise awareness on the issue.
Source: Breakfast

"We know a lot of people don't speak out about sexual assault, what it actually means is there has been a bit of a shift in our culture now," she told TVNZ 1's Breakfast. 

"People are starting to feel more comfortable coming forward, more comfortable going to police... their bosses, and talk publicly about it, and ultimately that is a good thing."

Ms McNamara said "absolutely something that can change" about the current culture. 

"There's a huge amount of work to do to change all those attitudes and behaviours that are making sexual abuse happen."

She said the increase in conversation around sexual abuse and harassment was helping to raise awareness on the issue and empower people to speak out about their experiences. 

Ms McNamara said it would be better to see the onus on perpetrators to come forward about sexual assault, instead of the survivors/victims, "but I do think it shows amazing strength from all the survivors who have spoken up and it is really good to see this coming into public conversation more". 

A lot of people did not want to report incidents because "they don't want to go through the process of having to re-tell it again and again, and also we know conviction rates are really, really low in New Zealand". 

"For a lot of people they just don't see the point."

Ms McNamara said development of sexual education in school was needed and happening, but adults also needed to be educated over consent as that was where a lot of the present issues lay. 

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