An advocate for victims of sexual abuse is calling for reform of both sex crime law and the trial process.

It comes after a study released today showed nearly a million Kiwis have suffered sexual violence but the vast majority never report the crime.

According to the second annual New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey - based on interviews with 8,000, people - 94 per cent of sexual assaults were not reported to police.

HELP Auckland executive director Kathryn McPhillips said myths about consent perpetuate a culture that makes women feel they will not be believed and will not get resolution through the justice system.


"Women should be able to go on dates, talk to strangers, join online dating apps, and explore their sexual interests without feeling like they are risking their own lives to do so."

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McPhillips, who has worked in counselling and advocacy for more than 20 years, said previous surveys have shown 10 per cent and then 9 per cent of victims coming forward after sexual violence.

Today's figures of only 6 per cent showed the problem getting worse not better.

"The solutions are within our grasp, but it requires the will to change," she said.

"New Zealand must improve access to justice – we believe that this requires reform of both sex crime law and the trial process.

"New Zealand must also bring forward the development of alternative restorative processes."

This has been the subject of two considerations by the Law Commission but has not been acted on yet, McPhillips said.


"Those who have been sexually assaulted should have a right to support and advocacy through the justice system," she said.

"This is now funded nation-wide for the police process, but support and advocacy through the court process is only funded in Auckland for adults.

"Extending this service to children and young people across the country could improve justice in response to sexual violence."

National Sexual Violence Survivor Advocate Louise Nicholas earlier told the Herald police needed to make changes to lower the staggering figure.

"Police have come a long way, but I don't think they've come far enough.

"For our survivors that don't think they can come forward, it comes down to 'he said, she said' and that's been in the mix for a million years."

Victim advocate Louise Nicholas. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Victim advocate Louise Nicholas. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Nicholas, who in 1993 accused several policemen of raping her nine years earlier and obstructing evidence in the subsequent trials, said there were still issues around consent and evidence.

"The evidential issue is one that really needs to be looked at - the bar is way too high.

"You've got to reach that bar and for most of our survivors they worry they can't get above that threshold."

HELP Auckland receives over 10,000 phone calls to the 24/7 crisis line every year and funding is tighter than ever before as demand grows, McPhillips said.

"It is a tremendous act of courage to come forward and seek help," she said.

"If you have been affected by this, we want you to reclaim your rightful place in your family and society.


"If you are uncertain about whether what happened was a crime or what to do, you can reach us 24/7 to talk through your situation."

Support services available:

• HELP Auckland - call 0800 623 1700.

• 211 Helpline (0800 211 211) – for help finding, and direct transfer to, community-based health and social support services in your area.

• Find your Local Women's Refuge by calling 0800 743 843 (0800 REFUGE) to be linked up with an advocate in your area.

• Victim Support – call 0800 842 846. 24-hour service for all victims of serious crime.

• Victim Information Line/Victim Centre – call 0800 650 654 or email


• Shine domestic abuse services – free call 0508 744 633 (9am to 11pm) if you're experiencing domestic abuse, or want to know how to help someone else.

• Family violence information line – call 0800 456 450 to find out about local services or how to help someone near you.

• Elder Abuse Helpline – call 0800 32 668 65 (0800 EA NOT OK) - a 24-hour service answered by registered nurses who can connect to local elder abuse specialist providers.

• Tu Wahine Trust – call 09 838 8700 for kaupapa Māori counselling, therapy and support for survivors of sexual harm (mahi tukino) and violence within whānau.

• Shakti New Zealand – call 0800 742 584 for culturally competent support services for women, children and families of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin who have experienced domestic violence.

• Safe to Talk – sexual harm helpline. Call 0800 044 334, text 4334 or email


• Rape Crisis Centres – call 0800 88 3300 for contact details of your local centre. Provides support for survivors of sexual abuse, their families, friends and whānau.

• Male Survivors Aotearoa New Zealand – call 0800 044 344. Offers one-to-one, peer and support groups for male survivors of sexual abuse and their significant others.

• Tu Wahine Trust – call 09 838 8700 for kaupapa Māori counselling, therapy and support for survivors of sexual harm (mahi tukino) and violence within whānau.

• ACC Sensitive Claims Unit – call 0800 735 566 for access to services related to sexual abuse or sexual assault.

• Hey Bro helpline – call 0800 HeyBro (0800 439 276). 24/7 help for men who feel they're going to harm a loved one or whānau member.

• Korowai Tumanoko – text or call 022 474 7044 for a kaupapa Māori service for those with concerning or harmful sexual behaviour.


• Stop – support for concerning or harmful sexual behaviour.

• Need to Talk? 1737 – free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.

• Youthline – call 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email

• Kidsline – call 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) for young people up to 18 years of age (24-hour service).

• Skylight– call 0800 299 100 helping children, young people and their families and whānau through tough times of change, loss, trauma and grief.

• Oranga Tamariki – call 0508 325 459 (0508 FAMILY) or email for concerns about children and young people.