Doctors concerned at reduced services for sexual assault and rape victims

Press Release – Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care
The imminent reduction of funding to the sexual violence crisis counselling service in Auckland is a huge step backwards for victims and families, says Dr Cathy Stephenson of DSAC (Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care).

“The forensic medical service relies on the specialist skills provided by crisis counsellors to support patients affected by sexual assault and to assist them through medical and police procedures,” she said. “We work in a partnership model and the counsellors are an integral part of our work. They ensure the victims of acute sexual trauma receive specialised care and support at a crucial time. The care they provide can make all the difference to the long-term recovery and prognosis of the patients we see”.

Dr Stephenson said that the Auckland HELP service was started 30 years ago when doctors working with sexual assault victims in the city’s police stations recognised the need for a specialised service, involving both medical and crisis support. The HELP model is seen by other regions around the country as the gold standard. At present, the provision of crisis counselling is variable across the country, with some smaller centres having no service at all. Doctors and Police specialising in sexual assault work have been looking at strategies to provide an equitable, nationwide crisis counselling service, to ensure all victims of sexual violence can expect and receive the same level of care.

Press Release – Help – November 19
Emergency services for sexual assault and rape victims in Auckland will have to be drastically cut following a National Government funding decision.

“We have no choice but to cut essential services for victims of rape and sexual abuse despite an earlier government promise to maintain adequate and sustainable funding for the services” said HELP spokesperson, Aimee Stockenstroom. Help. the Auckland specialist sexual abuse agency, is today beginning the reluctant process of restructuring that will result in decreased services.

Crisis Service Manager Aimee Stockenstroom said “Despite working intensely with a range of government departments right up to the last minute and requests to meet with Minister Paula Bennett, we have not obtained sufficient funding to keep the 24 hour telephone crisis line operating. With only one month’s funding left, we have been forced to begin a process of cuts and redundancies throughout the organisation.”

Last year in December the service was under threat of closure. After an overwhelming response from the public in support of HELP the government made a commitment to a cross government process to ensure that the crisis services would be sustainably funded.

Ms. Stockenstroom said that she is surprised by this lack of response from the government because they have repeatedly told the public that they will retain front line staff and have a focus on helping victims of crime. “Surely victims of rape and sexual abuse require specialised front line crisis and therapy services. Without this, sexual violence can cause long term mental health problems, costing the country billions of dollars. We only need $144,000. It’s not much to support thousands of traumatised women, children and families” she said.

Ironically, HELP has just celebrated 30 years of specialist service provision to sexually abused and raped women and children in Auckland. “We were set up because police and doctors recognised that rape and sexual abuse victims require specialist help. Non-specialists, no matter how well meaning, can inadvertently cause harm to traumatised victims and make it more difficult for police, justice and medical professionals to carry out their work in relation to the crime that has been committed.” says Aimee Stockenstroom “HELP is committed to continuing to provide this specialist support in some form, to victims, their families and the professionals who work with them.”

Content Sourced from scoop.co.nz
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