Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Rise in assaults during Rugby World Cup

First month of RWC sees record number of reported sexual abuse cases

RWC celebrations turned sour for those who were sexually assaulted by players or supporters. Photo / Supplied
RWC celebrations turned sour for those who were sexually assaulted by players or supporters. Photo / Supplied

Sexual assaults by players and supporters in last year's Rugby World Cup helped set a new record for assaults on women reported to an Auckland sexual abuse service.

Auckland Sexual Abuse Help recorded 52 new sexual assaults in the first month of the cup in September 2011, the highest in any month since records began in 2004 apart from a month when a batch of assaults on Pitcairn Island were recorded together.

The service's clinical manager Kathryn McPhillips told an Auckland Council forum this week that some of the assaults were directly related to the cup.

"There were several players. Player assault did occur," she said.

"There were others assaulted, for example where people had told people they were in Auckland for the Rugby World Cup and then an assault occurred later in the evening, that kind of 'met-tonight' scenario, people that get called an 'acquaintance' but actually you didn't know them from a bar of soap."

However the number of assaults reported to the service in October dropped back to 38, close to last year's monthly average of 36. The cup ran from September 9 to October 23.

Another analysis by the Te Rito family violence agency in Rodney, also reported to the forum, found "no discernible increase" in hospital admissions for assaults on women during the cup, either in Auckland or nationally.

Diane Woolson-Neville of Te Rito said national police statistics did show a jump in sexual assaults in September, from 209 in the same month of 2010 to 250 last year. But the monthly numbers from August to December varied widely between 209 (September) and 268 (November) in 2010, and between 213 (December) and 318 (August) in 2011.

Both Ms Woolson-Neville and Ms McPhillips said extra police alertness and anti-violence publicity may have helped to keep sexual assaults down to normal levels in October.

"Rugby is quite a big part of New Zealand culture anyway and it may not have been a situation out of the norm," Ms Woolson-Neville said.

"Also, the All Blacks won all their games."

- NZ Herald

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