Bay sexual assault counselling providers say there has been a noticeable increase in the number of victims reaching out for support and treatment as a result of the #MeToo campaign.

The #MeToo campaign and more support for sexual abuse victims from ACC had also increased the number of people seeking counselling treatment.

ACC says it is now receiving 21 sensitive claims a day related to mental or physical injuries from rape or sexual violence, up from 11 a day in 2013.

That's an 88 per cent increase in people making sensitive claims in the last five years and demand is stretching some treatment services.


Tauranga counsellor and advocate Denise McEnteer said she and other counsellors across the Bay were all working at "full capacity", and many like her had new client waiting lists.

McEnteer said the #MeToo campaign had resulted in increased demand for counselling services.

"That is a good thing, but the reality is I'm having to put people on the waiting list, which is something I never had to do a few years ago. We're all working at full capacity," she said.

"As a practitioner, I need to weigh up new clients' needs against those of existing clients and the severity of each situation, particularly if it is a recent assault.

"Anyone who is an absolute priority I see as fast as I can. I work closely with several other counsellors and any urgent cases I can't deal with I refer on to them," she said.

ACC acting chief customer officer Emma Powell said the spike in people seeking help was partly due to a policy change in 2014, which introduced a more flexible system to meet the full costs of victims' initial treatment.

The spike was also influenced by higher rates of awareness and reporting even before the #MeToo movement became public, she said.

Due to demand, ACC has asked to be able to amend its contract to allow new graduates and clinical psychology interns to help sexual abuse victims on a case-by-case basis.


The move is supported by Sonny Williams, the acting chief executive of the Bay of Plenty Sexual Assault Support Services.

Williams said he supported the proposal because there would be strict trauma policies and guidelines put in place around the move.

"We have definitely seen a noticeable increase in the number of calls we have been fielding which is a good thing, but that was no unexpected given ACC's policy change.

But some of the increased inquiries in the past 12 months is definitely attributable to the #MeToo campaign and greater awareness of the help available to victims," he said.

Williams said the surge in demand was an indication that more people were willing to talk about abuses, both recent and historical abuses, and seek professional help.

"One of the main points I would like to make is that sexual abuse has no borders and touches the lives of people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and economic status," he said.

Last month a new 24/7 national helpline Safe to Talk was launched to support people affected by sexual harm and sexual violence.

In the first month of operation, the helpline took more than 1200 calls from individuals, 87 per cent of them women.

According to the latest police data Western Bay police dealt with 82 reported incidents of sexual assault and related offences last year, and 32 in the six months to June 30, 2018.

Western BOP police district sexual assault and related offences proceedings:
2015: 74
2016: 78
2017: 82
2018: 32* ( up to June 30, 2018)

Where victims of sexual violence/harm can get help:

Safe to Talk - 0800 044 334 (24/7) text 4334, or email; Rape Crisis - 0800 88 33 00; Victim Support - 0800 842 846 (24hr service); Women's Refuge (For women and children) - crisis line on 0800 733 843. If at immediate risk call 111.