The chronic underfunding of services which respond to sexual and domestic violence is well and truly understood – Women’s Refuge and Rape Crisis can only offer the services they offer because they are so well supported by their local communities in terms of volunteer time, donations of resources and donations of money.
Does the government therefore feel like they are off the hook?
I think the reverse may be true actually, if you look at recent events. In the last few months, the annual street appeal for the two Wellington based Refuges raised more than $50,000 – more than ever before – in a recession. Wellington Rape Crisis announced they would have to close their doors one day a week because of a $55,000 shortfall between running their core services and the funding they have received – and they received that in donations in ONE week, albeit with some help from takeaways. And late last year, Auckland Sexual Abuse HELP were overwhelmed by community support when they indicated they might need to stop running their 24 hour helpline because of the withdrawal of funding. So overwhelmed emergency funding was found at the eleventh hour as the government were inundated with petitions and Facebook messages explaining to them how important helplines are for survivors of sexual violence.
New Zealand Governments – are you listening? It’s no longer true that our communities don’t understand what Refuges and Rape Crisis groups do. They get it. Because we have helped them – or their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, sons, daughters, lovers, family, whanau – recover from the kind of violence which hurts most because much of it is from people we care about.
Sustainable funding for these groups, now. New Zealanders are voting with their wallets on this issue, in astonishingly generous ways in these tough economic times. At some point, when the next service around the country indicates they cannot keep going with current funding, voters are going to ask “When comparatively this is pocket money, why aren’t these essential social services being funded by central government?”
New Zealand Governments – can you answer that? I can’t, and I haven’t been able to for several governments now. It’s time for a change. It’s time to fund groups responding to sexual and domestic violence properly, so they can do the work of making our communities safer for all of us.