Sexual harm referrals spike during latest lockdown

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By CASS MARRETT

Referrals for sexual harm and family violence have skyrocketed in Queenstown over the
most recent lockdown.

Queenstown Central Lakes Family Services clinical manager Fiona Young says, when
compared to last year’s lockdown, numbers have grown by 50% for sexual harm referrals
and 25% for family violence.

But Young says it’s difficult to know if lockdown has a direct effect on those crimes, in particular, because those offences were steadily increasing, anyway.

‘‘Whether those numbers would have still been the same regardless of lockdown, I don’t know … I think people are still recovering financially from last year so there’s probably
still a lot of stress in the community… there’s so much uncertainty in a lockdown.’’

On family violence, Queenstown police family harm coordinator sergeant Steve Watt says cops haven’t seen any mark ed increases when the two lockdown periods are compared.

‘‘Depending on the situation and circumstance people may feel more comfortable going to a
service provider like Central Lakes Family Services and receive help directly from them,
instead of coming directly to the police, so there can be some differences in statistical recordings,’’ he says.

Regarding sexual violence, detective senior sergeant Malcolm Inglis says those incidents have also remained constant, but agrees support services are often the first port of call for victims.

‘‘As we’re aware, it’s nationally well recorded that police only see the tip of the iceberg in relation to sexual crime,’’ Inglis says.

However, during lockdown he’s seen slight increases in his torical crime reporting.

‘‘People have time to think about things and become a bit more willing, perhaps, to come
forward,’’ he says.

Young says it’s hard to pinpoint what caused such a stark increase in sexual assault referrals during this lockdown, but says Alert Level 4 also creates isolation from support networks.

‘‘People who might utilise friends and family or services to support them with their safety,
can’t access those as easily when they’re in lockdown at home.’’

But if people feel unsafe, they don’t have to stay and won’t be penalised for leaving, she says.

● 24/7 support’s available through the 1737 number, by text or call.

cass.marrett@scene.co.nz