Society at tipping point over 'rape culture' - Minister

Yesterday's rape culture protest march moving up Queen St included David Shearer and his wide Anuschka, Photo / Michael Craig
Yesterday's rape culture protest march moving up Queen St included David Shearer and his wide Anuschka, Photo / Michael Craig

Justice Minister Judith Collins says the treatment of sexual assault victims has reached a tipping point and there is a real move to stop blaming victims.

Her comments today come after thousands of protesters throughout the country yesterday marched to demand an end to "rape culture".

Speaking on TVNZ's Q+A programme, Ms Collins said the public was right to be disgusted by the behaviour of a group called the Roast Busters, who bragged online about having sex with drunk and underage teenage girls.

She agreed society had reached a tipping point about the way victims were treated.

"And I think there's a real move to say that we should stop blaming victims."

She said questions would always be asked about whether anything could be done to prevent the crime.

"The best place obviously is to prevent it, but it's also about trying to take the blame off victims and encouraging them to come forward.

"And I think if more victims were able to come forward and to have their stories told and the offenders to be confronted with that, we might have fewer people who think it's alright to do this sort of thing to someone else."

Ms Collins said rape was nothing to do with what a victim wore or did.

"Having said that, unless we actually address those issues, and unless we actually stand up to that sort of abusive comment to victims, then we will continue to see those sorts of behaviours spoken about in that way."

She said embarrassment was part of what stopped victims coming forward.

"It's an incredibly humiliating thing for anyone to have to talk about, and it's not as though it's a crime where someone say breaks into your car and steals it.

"These people break in as such and what they do is they take something away from that person - they take their dignity and they essentially effect their soul. And this is a crime that lives with a victim every single day of their lives."

Ms Collins is looking into proposals by the Law Commission that would increase protection for complainants in rape cases.

The changes include providing a support person for young complainants giving evidence in court, and giving complainants notice if their previous sexual history was going to be discussed in court.

"I would never ever suggest for a moment that whatever is proposed, in terms of our court processes, would ever take away the feeling of being re-victimised, for a victim who has to relive what has happened.

"But you can't have a rape case occur if the victim can't actually say what's happened. It's very difficult for anyone to defend themselves, and I don't want to see miscarriages of justice on either side."

Ms Collins was looking at restorative justice.

"What we know is that quite a lot of those people who do complain to police as victims of sexual assault are actually assaulted by people who are close to them - either partners, former partners, friends, family members.

"And sometimes they don't want, those victims, to have to go to court. They also don't want to necessarily see the accused end up in jail for up to 20 years, because rape is treated extremely seriously in this country.

"What thy do want is they want abuse to stop, they want the offender to confess to what they've done, to acknowledge the harm that they've caused and to help give back that person's dignity.

"And I think it's that loss of dignity which continues to live with the victim forever."

Any change in court processes would go to Cabinet this year before being passed into law next year.

- APNZ

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