Launch of Rape Awareness Week

  • Deborah Morris
Associate Minister of Women's Affairs

Lollipop Playland,
Ghuznee St, Wellington


Every year Rape Crisis Whanau Ahuru Mowai holds a rape awareness week. This is not an appeal week but rather an opportunity to bring sexual violence to the forefront of people ?s minds so they are aware and think about stopping sexual violence.

It is challenging for us all when we start to think about sexual violence in society. To stop, read and digest the statistics - and what they mean in reality for many people - is a profoundly sobering thing.

I would like to acknowledge up front the dedication, professionalism and shear hard work of all those who work with Rape Crisis Whanau Ahuru Mowai. It is work that is not easy but it is essential work for our communities and I offer my best wishes to you all.

Incest is the topic of Rape Awareness Week this year and today marks the launch of the report Prevalence and Effects of Incest.

Incest - we know it happens - we know it happens in all socio-economic groups and in all ethnic groups. Yet we mainly prefer not to think about it and not to talk about it. Talking about incest, however, is one of the weapons we have to use against it. Incest is insidious and the silence of its survivors can allow it go on and for more people to become its victims. The message of speaking up lies behind the theme of the Rape Awareness Week advertising campaign which the Coalition Government has helped fund.

Some brave individuals - women and men - have allowed their experiences of incest to be used in national media advertisements to expose incest and to encourage others experiencing incest to talk about it and, through talking about it, to reclaim the part of their lives that incest took away.

The prevalence of incest as described in the incest report makes for stark reading. The report reveals that over 30 percent of sexual violence survivors helped by Rape Crisis last year were abused by blood relatives. Thirty two percent of women in New Zealand are subjected to sexual abuse before the age of 16. Of those abused before age 12, 44 percent were abused by family members.

Of course statistics about the incidence of incest tell only some of the story. The effects of incest are profound. Incest, like child abuse in general, has been found to be related to almost all mental health problems in childhood, adolescence and adult life.

The most common long term effects of incest include sexual dysfunction, problems with intimate relationships, depression, self-destructive behaviour - often including drug abuse, suicidal behaviour and self destructive relationships.

Apart from the personal toll incest takes on individuals, there are economic and social costs to the community. These include costs related to the imprisonment and rehabilitation of offenders, and the costs associated with the care of incest survivors.

The Coalition Government is committed to improving the well-being of the community. Last week, I was pleased to announce two initiatives that will help young people lead safer lives. While not aimed specifically at helping survivors of incest or sexual violence, the Youth Development Fund and the National Resource Centre will both assist youth in distress - statistically some of those will be incest survivors.

The Youth Development Fund will support community programmes to help vulnerable youth turn their lives around. This could include programmes that tackle mental health problems, behavioural difficulties and help with alcohol and drug problems.

The National Resource Centre will be established to collect research, resources and information relating to the prevention of youth suicide.

Incest and the wider issues of sexual violence are issues for the whole community. Events such as Rape Awareness Week and the ?It?s OK to talk about incest? campaign are important reminders of the need to raise awareness and to create a ?zero-tolerance? climate for incest and sexual violence.

The crucial role of Rape Crisis - the only national sexual assault agency in New Zealand - must be acknowledged. Rape Awareness Week is a reminder to us all of how vital your work is and how many New Zealanders seek your assistance.

Your work is difficult and requires expert counselling and education skills. I applaud your efforts and wish you well with achieving the objectives of Rape Awareness Week.