An increase in reported rape cases has Whangarei Rape Crisis workers warning women of all ages not to walk home alone at night and to make sensible choices about social behaviour.
Northland Police criminal investigations manager Detective Inspector Kevin Burke is also warning women to stay alert to their surrounding environment, keep an eye on their drinks in social situations, not accept unsolicited drinks and look after their friends while out partying or at licensed premises.
"If you are out with a group, stay with the group," Mr Burke said.
Anyone who is the victim of a rape that may involve spiked drinks should report it to the police as soon as they can because the cocktail of drugs only stays in the system for a short while, he says.
However, the police had not dealt with more rapes and sexual assaults than they would normally see and there was little indication drink-spiking was a factor in recent cases, Mr Burke said.
Police treated all incidents of sexual assault seriously and encouraged any rape victim to report the incident immediately. "There has been a history of under-reporting of sexual assault. However since the Commission of Inquiry and Police changes around ASA (adult sexual assault) investigations, there has been an increase in reported sexual assaults.
If you are out with a group, stay with the group.
"This is an example of the Northland community having trust and confidence in the police and their partner agencies involved in the investigations of adult sexual assault."
Rape Crisis said around half of 17 new cases since July 1 were referred by the police, an increase on the same time last year. The other cases include referrals from other social service agencies, some cases from outside the district and women coming in independently. Some related to historical events, a Rape Crisis spokeswoman said.
Recent cases also reflected behaviour associated with poverty and family stress, such as partner rape. "It's not drinking that shows up as a trend, but poverty."
Last week, Northland-based Labour MP Kelvin Davis donated $300 to Whangarei Rape Crisis. Mr Davis has canvassed for more government policy and funding for programmes to counter sexual and domestic violence.
He said while those violent crimes were not just the domain of the poor, too many were related to socio-economic factors and lack of education.