Guest Post: Give survivors a fighting chance

Many thanks to Jennifer Annan, Auckland Sexual Abuse Help Court Support Counsellor for this postThanks also to everyone at ASAH for making their expertise in supporting survivors through the justice system publically available.  You can read ASAH’s submission guide here.

The government asked the Law Commission to review making the court system more fair, more effective and more efficient.  To do it we need as many people as possible to let Hon Judith Collins know that they support the changes that are recommended by the NZ Law Commission.

This is a once in a life time opportunity to make the Criminal Justice System (CJS) different. The CJS for sexual violence must change. This is an investment in the future of all those who are harmed by sexual violence. This could improve their chances of finding justice and reduce the risk of being re-victimised and re-traumatised through the CJS. It will also support holding offenders accountable and reducing the risk of re-offending.

If she (Judith Collins) knew me and what I’ve gone through being sexually abused as a child and then going through the current justice system, how could she not want change!!!!!!!!!!! I want to convince you that the change needs to happen. You have to look at this from the point of view of someone who’s actually been through it.

I wouldn’t recommend going through the current criminal justice system, you have to be superwoman. I feel like I need to grab every single person in this country and shake their head. You need to look at it like it’s your mother, your brother, your sister, people need to connect to this personally to understand the importance.

Nicki Tongs: Survivor of Childhood Sexual abuse and a court trial in September 2011 ending with a guilty verdict and still disillusioned

Many New Zealanders have been sexually assaulted/abused. Some report to the police and go onto court. Occasionally the offender pleads guilty which avoids a court trial. For the majority that do proceed to court, survivor/victims have to give evidence at a trial in front of 12 jury members, the judge, defence lawyer, crown prosecutor and a number of other court workers.

This has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life, especially in front of a group of strangers [jury] who I may bump into sometime in the future

Male survivor in court trial in April 2012 ending in guilty verdict

It is important you listen to those who have experienced the trauma and re-victimisation of it. If you have the misfortune of finding yourself in it, you too will experience the appalling consequences of it. Please support the changes recommended by the Law Commission and let the government know that we must have change now, not in 10 years’ time. Every woman/man/youth/child that enters the CJS as it currently is will have an incredibly onerous journey before them. It shouldn’t be this hard.   At times I have felt so despondent that I have considered resigning from my position as court support counsellor. I have not wanted to be part of this charade. What holds me in there is my determination to give survivor/victims a fighting chance by giving them a thorough understanding of the court process.

We have until Friday 27 April to let the Law Commission know what we need from our justice system for survivors of sexual violence.  You can tell them here, or email at alttrials@lawcom.govt.nz, or post your submission to:

The Law Commission, ATTN: Alternative Trial Processes Consultation, PO Box 2590, Wellington 6140, New Zealand.

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