• Kathryn McPhillips is executive director of HELP Auckland.

Recently a child sex offender, Darren Jolly, was finally jailed for breaching his extended supervision order. A high risk offender, Jolly was caught spending time with someone under 16. It took him breaching his order 21 times for him to go back to prison.

That's just one example of how our criminal justice system fails to fulfil its role in stopping sexual violence.

At what point do children's rights to be safe count more than the rights of adult offenders?


Our criminal justice system lets us down in so many other ways. The law gives different messages - you don't need to have said "no" to have not consented, but if the initiator had a reasonable belief in consent then the law does not see it as rape even if you didn't agree to that sexual activity.

What is considered a "reasonable belief" can allow myth into the process. Maybe you had kissed him earlier in the evening or maybe you didn't shove him off strongly enough.

Children are now protected in the courtroom to some degree, but are still subjected to interrogations just like adults would be.

Our sexual abuse statistics continue to stay at appalling rates because there are usually no consequences for abuse. Most crimes are never even reported, and only about one out of a hundred sexual abuse crimes ever results in a conviction.

There are simple changes we could make to the criminal justice service that would make the process less traumatising for survivors. We could set up specialist courts with a judge leading the questioning of witnesses and lawyers trained in the dynamics of sexual violence.

Ideally this would lift the conviction rate for sexual crimes, keeping the community safer from offenders and getting more offenders into programmes that would prevent re-offending.

But what about the other 97 per cent, the offenders who are never going to make it to court?

Cultural myths about rape allow those offenders to hide in plain sight, in your neighbourhood, your school and sometimes even your home. We tell our kids not to be out late at night because we're worried about the rapist who might be preying on them outside. But over 90 per cent of sexual abusers are known to the victim.


They may be your neighbour who always volunteers to babysit, the kids' uncle, your brother's friends, that guy you see at school every day. The reason offenders like them can keep doing what they do is because our society's values are so skewed that we're more likely to blame the victim than the offender.

How many times have you heard things like "Well why was she out running at night?", "Why did she go home with him if she didn't want to have sex?".

Internalised rape myths means girls will often blame themselves for being raped, even if they were unconscious. Adding to their trauma, many will be bullied and called a "slut" for what happened to them. For some, this is worse than the assault itself, and many have to leave school.

On the other hand, partying, drinking and getting with as many girls as possible is all part of the Kiwi lad culture. These days, boys are learning about sex through pornography where women and children are dominated and humiliated. Often they don't even know what pleasurable and consensual sex even looks like. It's a toxic recipe for hurt and abuse.

Your children notice how you talk about women. If you make jokes about how they're stupid or talk about what they're wearing, they'll learn that it's OK to treat other people as "less than".

When you are watching TV or you hear your child putting others down, talk about it, and ask them about how they think that would have made the other person feel. We need to make our children feel empathy for others. That's the antidote to all this abuse.

And there are glimmers of hope that New Zealanders want change. The March Against Rape Culture, led completely by New Zealand schoolgirls, showed that our young people are sick of the rape jokes, the lack of respect, and being assaulted at parties. The Government is investing $46 million in the next few years in sexual abuse services.

At HELP Auckland, the media attention on sexual abuse has resulted in a steady stream of survivors coming forward for the counselling they need to heal and recover. Our free 24/7 crisis line has been ringing off the hook, and our therapy team can't keep up with the demand.

We need to lift the silence on sexual abuse. Sexual abuse hides in the shadows. By shining a light on it, we're empowering survivors to speak out, and one step closer to ending it.

HELP Auckland has 80 women and children waiting for sexual abuse therapy right now. You can donate here to help them raise the $100,000 needed to help these women and children who have been brave enough to seek help.