Nearly a million Kiwis have experienced sexual violence - but the vast majority never report the crime.

The second annual New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey, which is released today and based on interviews with 8,000, people, reveals 94 per cent of sexual assaults were not reported to police.

And, while it makes for sad reading, experts say the picture is largely unchanged since the first report.

Ministry of Justice Sector Deputy Secretary Tim Hampton said the levels of crime being experienced and the number of victims is "nothing for New Zealand to be proud of".


During the 12 months to September just over 1.2 million adults became a victim of crime - 284,000 of whom suffered violence at the hands of someone they knew.

The survey also found 938,000 adult New Zealanders had experienced sexual violence at some stage of their life.

Hampton said sexual violence data reinforced a lot of what was already known about victims and the level of non-reporting to police.

"For comparison's sake, 94 per cent of sexual assaults weren't reported to police, when 94 per cent of motor vehicle theft was reported."

National Sexual Violence Survivor Advocate Louise Nicholas said 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."

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."

Hampton said combining this year's report and last's told them more about other areas that had been a concern.

"What we can say now though is that those with disabilities or physiological issues are one and half times more likely than the average New Zealand adult to be a victim of crime."

There is a higher level of victimisation for those under financial pressure, living in more deprived areas, unemployed and not actively seeking employment, and those in single parent households, Hampton said.

"These findings help us identify likely victims of crime in New Zealand."

The survey also reinforced the 2018 findings that a small proportion of the population experiences the majority of crime.

"Just two per cent of victims experienced 33 per cent of all offences."

The Ministry of Justice's chief victims adviser to Government Dr Kim McGregor said other studies in recent decades had given similar figures about sexual assault, violence and reporting.

Chief victims adviser to the Government Dr Kim McGregor. Photo / Ministry of Justice
Chief victims adviser to the Government Dr Kim McGregor. Photo / Ministry of Justice

"This survey is excellent in that the Government this time is collecting the statistics on violence in our communities. That is really important because that makes Government the stakeholder in finding solutions to the huge levels of violence we have in Aotearoa."

It can then direct its investment to tailor to the needs of victims of crime, she said.

She praised the recent Government funding into family and sexual violence as "so needed" because there had been huge waiting lists and it had been very difficult for those specialist sectors to retain staff.

In an ideal world, good investment would result in good quality specialist services so that if anyone if harmed there can be a tailored wrap around of support, she said.

"Once you experience victimisation you are at a much greater risk of revictimisation."

Wrap around specialist support services for victims and their families could potentially prevent revictimisation and that means over generations, she said.

Speaking out about sexual assault

An Auckland woman whose sexual assault complaint did not lead to a prosecution still believes victims should come forward.

After a night out in 2012, she said, an older colleague had asked her to drive him home to his apartment because he was too drunk, promising she could get a taxi from there.

Instead she told the Herald the man began groping and kissing her - she was unable to leave as the building required swipe card access.

She alleged he dragged her towards the bedroom but eventually he let go and she managed to escape.

When she got home, she said she collapsed and could not speak about happen. At first she said she wanted to forget all about it but decided to go on the record for other women.

After her case didn't lead to a prosecution, the 22-year-old said she lost her job in a restructure.

Telling her story in the Herald made her feel free, she said.

"That let me out almost, it was like I had been trapped in that room for six years. That let me out of it."

She also feels like attitudes have changed since her story and the #MeToo movement.

She said she would still encourage others to go to police but if she could change one thing about her experience it would have been to bring someone she trusted to her police interview to advocate for her.

For a lot of women going through the complaints process it doesn't feel like anyone is on your side, she said, and it was traumatic reliving what happened.

"You know if you go to police you have done everything you could possibly do. You know in your heart that you have done everything, and then it's up to the police.

"All of us really need to be protected and that's a way we can protect each other."

Where to get help:

• If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
• If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline Safe to Talk on: 0800 044 334 or text 4334.
• Alternatively contact your local police station
• If you have been abused, remember it's not your fault.