Everyone needs the right help – survivors need services

I wrote during the Hell-Pizza-paying-for-essential-social-services-at-Wellington-Rape-Crisis debacle earlier this year:

In the 1980s, we had more than ten specialist Te Kākano agencies funded by government to work with Māori rape survivors and whanau, more than twenty specialist Rape Crisis groups, four Sexual Abuse HELP groups, and a Rape Crisis National Office which could represent the needs of survivors to the Government.

By 2004, both Te Kākano and Rape Crisis had seen their funding slashed, with fewer than half the agencies able to stay open.  And Rape Crisis National Office was gone, while the numbers of survivors trying to get help went up and up and up.

Last year it was this and this when the only 24 hour helpline for survivors in central Auckland had it’s funding cut only to be reinstated at the last minute after public outcry.  Auckland Sexual Abuse HELP are unsure, a year later, if their slashed-again-funding will be enough to work with the 250 clients they have using their services every week.

This week the specialist service in south and central Taranaki announced they are shutting their doors and hanging up their crisis line because they cannot pay their eight staff. 

The organisation has run the crisis line since 2002, giving information, advice and support to victims of rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence in Taranaki and around New Zealand.  The latest cuts have come after the organisation had already reduced its services across the board earlier this year in an effort to save money.

It would be simple if this was about a Government that did not believe in funding the community sector to support vulnerable people – and there are elements of that – this Government has been no friend to survivors of sexual violence.

But sadly, it’s not that simple – it is about successive governments relying on our community “forgetting” about sexual violence because it is ugly.  It is about survivors, mostly, needing services when they are at their most vulnerable – and their least likely to be able to make a fuss if there is nowhere they can go, no-one they can talk to, no-one to help them manage and recover from being violated.

It is about Rape Culture – the pretense that sexual violence and rape do not happen that often, do not happen to people we know, are not that big a deal.  Successive governments have relied on Rape Culture to hide their horrendous underfunding over decades of a sector which saves people’s lives.

But times are changing.  Wellington Rape Crisis got the funding they needed in just one week in an astonishing display of generosity from the public.  Auckland Sexual Abuse HELP were re-funded last year when the public outcry reached John Key’s Facebook page, and dozens of survivors and people who care about survivors wrote to him to complain.

Governments can no longer rely on communities not noticing when essential services for survivors are cut.

Which is why the new Green Party campaign for survivors is exciting.  Postcards, community events and launches, all over the country beginning early next year.  A Facebook campaign which is live now, and lets you know how to be involved.  All under the simple tagline “Rape and sexual abuse can destroy lives.  Everyone needs the right help.”

This campaign is not about politics – it’s about community:

Our vision is that every survivor of sexual violence can access the services they need. To achieve this, the NZ Government must significantly increase the current funding of specialist survivor services in the 2014 budget. Our mission is to raise awareness of the life-saving and life-enhancing services needed by survivors in our communities.

If you’re interested in finding out more, check out Facebook or contact the campaign here.  You don’t have to support the Greens – you just have to want every survivor to have access to help they need – regardless of who is making the funding decisions in parliament.  This campaign is going to feature stories of why services worked for survivors – and exactly how they saved lives – our communities telling politicians why we need services to be funded by the government, not pizza places or members of the public.

Watch this space for more information.

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