2 May 2017

Police videos could help more people come forward - advocates

10:04 am on 2 May 2017

A new series of online videos that explain what happens when you go to the police to report a sexual assault could encourage more people to come forward, advocates for sexual assault survivors say.

Police are attempting to debunk myths around reporting sexual assault, using new online videos.

Police are attempting to debunk myths around reporting sexual assault, using new online videos. Photo: NZ Police / Screenshot

The short videos, which have been released by the police to coincide with Rape Awareness Week, show the step-by-step process of what happens when reporting an assault - from dialling 111 or going into a police station and being offered support, through to a medical examination and formal interview.

It was estimated just one in 10 sexual assaults end up being reported to the police.

The general manager of the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network, Fiona McNamara, said many people were fearful of going to the police, or even telling friends and family that they had been sexually assaulted.

"Often it's because someone might know the person who's assaulted them, they could be a close friend or they could be a friend-of-a-friend, or a partner, and there are a whole lot of different repercussions that can go along with reporting something like that," she said.

"There are also a lot of other reasons like the process itself can be incredibly intimidating and can cause the person who's reporting the assault to re-live the experience again and a lot of people don't want to have to go through that."

The police national crime manager, Detective Superintendent Tim Anderson, said they were trying to demystify that process.

"These videos are an effort from us to let people know what the process is and where they can go for help, equally they also spell out the importance of looking after our victims and the agencies that we work with to support the health, safety and well-being of each victim as well."

Ms McNamara said some people might have never reported a crime to the police before and did not know what to expect.

"Having a really clear picture of what it's like can help people to make an informed decision about whether they do in fact want to go to police and what that can involve if they do that."

Ms McNamara said the videos could go some way to changing negative public perceptions of how the police dealt with sexual assault complaints.

"These resources are really useful because it shows that there is understanding within police around sexual assault and it also shows that police are working with experts and really highly informed people around these issues."

National sexual violence survivor advocate, Louise Nicholas, said going to the police could be a difficult step to take and it was important the police carefully explained what happened.

"It'll help them choose whether or not this is actually what I want to do, but the biggest thing for me is that as long as our survivors are supported through every inch of the way, with the police process, with the court process, then it is made a hell of a lot easier for them to endure this."

Ms Nicholas said she hoped the videos would encourage more people to have confidence in the police and come forward with sexual assault complaints.

"Even if there is a spike in reporting, it's not that there's been a spike in sexual violence, it's just that people are feeling a lot more confident in coming forward."

The videos can be accessed via the police YouTube channel and the sexual assault section of their website.

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