Fri, May 20, 2022 10:30 AM
By Jenny Nicholson
A charity supporting victims of sexual abuse has seen its workload quadrupled over the past three years.
Sexual Abuse Support and Healing (SASH) offers 24-hour crisis response following sexual assault as well as on-going support, counselling and advocacy for victims and their whanau across the Top of the South.
SASH manager Emma Brazendale says in 2016/17 the service averaged 12 new clients a month and are now averaging 60. In May 2021 there were 97 new clients.
Emma is unsure if this represents an increase in sexual harm but says it has become more acceptable to seek help. There is a greater understanding that even if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it doesn’t change the scenario. No still means no.
“People are more knowledgeable on what sexual harm is,” Emma says. “There is now a clear culture that whatever goes on, you have a right to say no at any place, at any stage. That is a big culture shift.”
Emma says the increase in anxiety caused by Covid-19 may have encouraged people to look at what they could do to decrease it.
“They may have looked back and want to address things in their past,” she says. “It’s a brilliant thing that people are coming to us now.”
The SASH crisis team is available 24/7 and is contacted via police. It supports clients through medical forensic examinations and police interviews.
Emma says in the past people didn’t think the police would believe them or treat them with fairness and kindness but police are “quite phenomenal” in how they deal with sexual assault right from the moment it is reported.
After the initial support is given, case managers will contact the client and can work with them for as long as necessary providing support including through the justice system.
About 75 per cent of new referrals at SASH are historical cases. With no limit on when people can be referred or self-refer, some of their new clients are making contact 30 years after an event. There is also no limit on how long SASH works with clients.
“Some people may be in and out of our service for years,” Emma says. “The chance to speak, be believed and to be validated is important.”
Emma says they have also seen an increase of males and those from the rainbow community accessing their service.
If you would like to contact SASH please phone 03 548 2407.