ACC breach horrifies abuse victims

By Amelia Romanos

File photo / NZPA
File photo / NZPA

Sexual abuse victims have been thrown into a state of panic after reports that their private ACC details might have been released.

An ACC file containing details of more than 9000 claimants was reportedly emailed to an unauthorised recipient last year.

The file is believed to contain about 250 sensitive claims cases, which deal with injuries resulting from sexual assault and sexual abuse.

One Auckland woman, who has a historic sensitive claim with ACC, said she was horrified by the possible breach.

"Things are put aside, and you're working through things and now it's all coming back,'' she told APNZ.

"You just want to get on with your life and this is shocking.''

Her claim related to an incident in 1993 involving her then father-in-law, and she was concerned any details being released now would cause problems at her daughter's wedding later this year.

"There are a lot of family members, including many who don't know, and the fallout from my name getting out could be huge,'' she said.

"I live on the edge as it is, and am trying very hard to hold everything together for my daughter's wedding - to have other family members discover this piece of history would be devastating for myself, my daughter and her big day.''

The email's recipient, an ACC client, reportedly blacked out details on the file before giving it to a reporter, but that was of little comfort to the woman.

"I've got an appointment for an assessment at the end of this month and all the paperwork has to go back to ACC, and I'm thinking 'Do I really want to go through with this now?' Because how can I know it will stay confidential?'' she asked.

"The point is this time they might have been blanked out. In this technological age, those things get out too easily.''

Another Auckland woman, who lodged a claim in 2007 after being raped at a funeral home at the age of 15, said the breach had brought all of her old feelings back to the surface.

"And when it comes back, it comes back hard,'' she said.

"I was never one to enjoy the idea of what happened to me made public. I'm a private person and because of my culture it's not something you really tell everybody, especially because it happened at a family tangi.''

The woman said the person responsible for the breach could have no idea of the impact their actions had on the victims.

"They should be fired from their job and never be allowed to work in that kind of place again. For the sake of the victims and families whose details were sent in, let's just hope none of those details are made public.''

Many other victims also came forward to say how devastated they were to hear about the breach, and ask how they could find out whether their details had been released.

ACC did not have a legal responsibility to notify people if their information had been released, although Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said she understood the organisation would be calling anyone who was affected.

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