Changes are needed so that victims of crime feel safe to report crime and seek help.
Victim Support, the charity that supported more than 46,000 victims of crime, trauma and suicide last year, says the New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey released today continues to show a worrying trend that most New Zealanders are not reporting crime.
Victim Support spokesperson Dr Petrina Hargrave said the organisation was concerned that the proportion of adults who experienced fraud and deception had increased from 6 per cent to 10 per cent, while only 6.5 per cent of fraud and cybercrime was reported to police.
“Our biggest concern is that victims are remaining invisible and not getting the support they need. Behind these statistics are New Zealanders who are suffering alone.”
Dr Hargrave said last year victims of fraud and cybercrime made up only 1.4 per cent of Victim Support’s clients.
“We know this is just the tip of the iceberg, so as a society we need to start addressing barriers to reporting crime and seeking help if we want to prevent crime and support victims.”
Dr Hargrave said fraud victims commonly experienced “victim blaming” and there was a societal narrative that they had been fooled or duped and therefore responsible for what happened to them.
“To make sense of bad things happening, society tends to blame victims, and we do see this in fraud cases. Victim blaming is a rampant form of revictimisation that can prevent victims from coming forward and can prolong their suffering.
“When you add that to the fear many victims feel about engaging with the criminal justice system, you can see why people end up hiding away and not getting justice or the support they need to recover from crime.”
Dr Hargrave said victims often needed support to report the crime in the first place and to engage with the justice system.
An independent evaluation of Victim Support’s services showed that 37 per cent of victims would have dropped out of the criminal justice process if it weren’t for the support they received from the organisation.
“These statistics tell us what victims need. We need a justice system and support in society that reinforces that victims did the right thing by reporting crime.”
She said the impact of fraud and cybercrime was devastating financially and emotionally, which was why victims needed empathy and support.
Anyone who experienced a crime in New Zealand was entitled to free support, something Victim Supports offers regardless of whether they reported the crime or how trivial it seemed, said Dr Hargrave.
“Many victims tell us how helpful it is to have someone outside the family to talk to. Often after receiving emotional and practical support, victims feel empowered to report the crime, but the support is there even if you choose not to.”