The highly publicised Harvey Weinstein case appears to have had an impact on the number of sexual assaults reported in Canterbury.
Allegations of sexual assault and rape against the American film producer triggered the viral international campaign, the Me Too movement.
Adult Sexual Assault Team co-ordinator Detective Senior Sergeant Scott Anderson said the movement provided a “catalyst” for people to come forward to report sexual assaults.
“In general, people are more comfortable to report these things to police than ever before,” he said.
Police statistics show a 15.2 per cent increase in victims of sexual assault and related offences in Canterbury, from December 2017 to December 2018.
There were 812 victims who reported sexual assault in Canterbury last year, compared to Wellington which had 595, the second highest.
The Me Too movement exploded on social media in October 2017 and within a year gained more than 19 million hits on Twitter.
The hashtag was used in an attempt to reveal the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.
More than 80 women in the film industry have come forward with allegations against Weinstein.
American actress Alyssa Milano popularised the Me Too phrase online, following making sexual-abuse allegations against Weinstein.
The scandal’s impact on powerful men in various industries came to be called the ‘Weinstein Effect.’
Detective Senior Sergeant Anderson said an increase in reporting had “definitely been noticed” and reports of historical assaults had increased.
However, he had not noticed an increase in sexual assaults and harassment in the workplace.
Detective Senior Sergeant Anderson said while it is
“really hard to quantify” anecdotal evidence shows sexual assaults are massively unreported.
Aviva’s Sexual Assault Support Service Canterbury team leader Fiona Outram agrees.
“More education and awareness around consent is clearly required – not just in Canterbury but nationwide – given our high numbers of sexual assault, and we know that the vast majority of sexual assaults aren’t reported,” she said.
Miss Outram said the high profile case last year, where young women allege they were drugged and then sexually assaulted at a central city bar, has had an effect.
“It encourages others to come forward with their own, perhaps unrelated, experiences of assault,” she said.
Police received more than 25 complaints from woman since the allegations were made public by The Star in August.
Four men were arrested and are facing multiple charges which include stupefying and sexual assault.
All four pleaded not guilty and will reappear in court on Wednesday for a case review hearing.
Miss Outram was aware of Canterbury’s victim numbers last year.
“Referrals were up 12 per cent and clients supported by the service were up 30 per cent. However, this is partially because we began offering the service further afield in Selwyn and Ashburton, with an additional practitioner.”
Detective Senior Sergeant Anderson encourages anyone who would like information on how to report matters of sexual assault to police to know firstly that their safety is paramount and they can go on to police.govt.nz and view the link about sexual assault.