Studies get $1m to examine issues around sexual violence.

More than $1 million has been awarded for two new studies that will investigate rape culture in New Zealand - and why few victims are going to the police.

Criminology Associate Professor Jan Jordan has received a Marsden Fund grant of $610,000 for a wide-ranging study that will analyse attitudes toward rape, and why there are still alarming hurdles for complainants after 40 years of change in society.

Her colleagues at Victoria University, associate professors Elisabeth McDonald and Ann Weatherall, who have received a $540,000 grant, will meanwhile look at the experiences of complainants in the courtroom.

The announcement of the studies comes days after the police team investigating the Roast Busters under-age sex scandal announced there was not enough evidence to prosecute the young men alleged to have been involved in offending against 25 girls.


Associate Professor Jan Jordan saw the case as a core example of what she would be investigating.

"It raised big questions - how were the young women involved in that case portrayed, to what extent were their voices heard, and why did the guys involved think it was okay to brag about it online?"

She would be focusing on the culture that gave rise to rape and looking at problems surrounding the reporting of rape.

Previous research had shown that just 9 per cent of sexual assaults were being reported to police.

Of those cases, only 13 per cent resulted in conviction.

While there was heightened awareness around the issue today, Associate Professor Jordan said there was an "awful lot" of women who felt silenced.

"Even if an offender is convicted, those women who take a case to court still feel traumatised and degraded - the whole process is designed to put them, in many ways, on trial in the courtroom."

Dr Kim McGregor of Rape Prevention Education welcomed the studies, which she expected would also draw on alternative legal processes suggested in a 2012 Law Commission consultation paper.


"What we want to do is get to the truth of the matter - if we can get a more human process that complainants may feel they have some confidence in, we may get a safer community," she said.

Sex abuse survivor and victims advocate Louise Nicholas described the present system as brutal.

"There's absolutely no need for it to be like that. So many complainants are saying change is needed. We need a process that is actually safe for them to go through, to tell their stories and to not be judged, blamed or criticised."

The studies are among 101 projects selected for this year's $55.7 million Marsden Fund allocation. Funded projects span areas including science, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities.

Damning numbers

• An estimated 9% of sexual violence is reported to police.
• Just 13% of cases recorded by police result in conviction.
• An estimated 90% of sexual violence is committed by someone known to the victim.
• People between the ages of 16 and 24 are statistically at the highest risk of sexual assault.
Source: Rape Prevention Education.