20 May More support for victims needed to reduce harm
The New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey released today highlights a sad reality for thousands of victims, says Victim Support Researcher Dr Petrina Hargrave.
The survey revealed sobering figures, showing that 30 per cent of adults experienced one or more offences last year. For Māori, that figure is 38 per cent. 75 per cent of crime remains unreported to Police, with 94 per cent of sexual violence going unreported.
“Many victims, especially those of sexual violence, don’t feel safe reporting crime because of the risk of not being believed and the stress of going through the system,” says Dr Hargrave.
“If we want to address victimisation and give victims the confidence to report crime, victims must be able to know that they’ll be supported, heard, and that our justice system genuinely cares about them.”
Those under financial pressure, living in more deprived areas, unemployed and not actively seeking employment, and those in single parent households experienced higher levels of victimisation.
These drivers of crime and victimisation raise real concern as New Zealand and the world head into recession.
“People who are under those extra social and economic pressures often lack the financial, social, practical and emotional support they need to protect themselves from crime,” says Dr Hargrave.
Victim Support helps almost 40,000 victims of crime and trauma each year from all walks of life. The organisation has more than 500 Support Workers throughout the country who offer free, 24/7 support to victims of burglary right through to those bereaved by homicide – even if they haven’t reported the crime.
Dr Hargrave says Victim Support’s focus is to empower victims to heal and stay safe.
“This could mean simply being there for someone after a crime and listening, referring them to counselling and other services, directing them to financial support or helping them throughout the stress of the court process.”
Victim Support’s own research shows support is the most important of victims’ justice needs.
“Our own research shows victims feel excluded from the justice system. They actually feel the system doesn’t care about them. We need to drastically improve the experience of victims throughout their justice journey, including resourcing quality support from both support organisations and the justice system itself,” says Dr Hargrave.
“Past victimisation is one of the best predictors of future victimisation, so how we treat victims after a crime may affect their participation in the justice system and their likelihood of reporting future crime. Meeting victims’ needs is an important harm reduction measure at both the individual and societal level.”
Note: Victim Support research, Victims’ Voices: The Justice Needs and Experiences of New Zealand Serious Crime Victims, found 68 percent of victims in the study felt justice had not been served in their case and 59 per cent said they had no faith in the justice system. See the full report here.
Jo de Joux on 021 245 6924 or firstname.lastname@example.org