Principle 3: value based services  

What we do and how we do it is informed by the nature of sexual violence and its cultural context, its impacts on victims/survivors and society, and what survivors need to heal. This informs our work with clients, the nature of our organisations and relationships, and our political advocacy and activism to get the needs of victims/survivors met and to end sexual violence.

Respect for service users involves an acknowledgement and articulation of the power dynamic inherent in a service delivery relationship. Sexual violence, being an abuse of power, is often associated with a loss of dignity, humiliation and intimidation of the victim/survivor.[1] The service delivery relationship has the potential to redress a sense of powerlessness by responding to victim/survivors as people with dignity and rights.[2]

Tauiwi Constitution suggests that:

Sexual violence is an abuse of power. It occurs primarily due to the way society defines the roles of women and men and supports a patriarchal system that views others as property, while also rewarding those who exercise power and control over others with no regard for human rights or dignity. [3]
Society has failed to make paramount the rights and needs of children and young people. As the degree of sexual violence perpetrated on children and young people has become apparent we have come to believe that society’s failure to make paramount the rights and needs of children and young people allows adults to use their emotional, physical and social power to abuse children and young people and to fail to provide the nurturing and safe environments which would protect children and young people from abusive patterns of behaviour.
Sexual violence predominantly victimises women[4] and is predominantly perpetrated by men, however both males and females perpetrate and are victimised by sexual violence. Gender differences can exist in the motivations and patterns of this violent behaviour. While some impacts of the violence are similar for males and females, some impacts are different due to the differences in patterns of perpetration and the societal context in which the victim makes sense of and lives with the consequences of the violence. [5]
Sexual violence is most likely to be perpetrated on those perceived to be vulnerable, whether by age, gender, ethnicity, race, gender,[6] disability, a history of abuse, language, immigration, or the quality of social supports in a person's life.[7]
In general, sexual violence is most likely to be perpetrated by those who are vulnerable to the messages of a rape supportive culture. For some this will be due to having been victims of violence themselves and living with the psychological and emotional consequences of this, though most victims of violence do not perpetrate sexual violence on others. Nor have all perpetrators been victims. Some perpetrators who find themselves in a position of power over others believe that they are entitled to take what they want due to the social and personal messages about power to which they have been exposed and which they have taken up, for example, rape perpetrated in war, or by groups of adult males. [8]

Our work with clients recognises the fundamental importance of not reflecting these dynamics if clients are to be safe and healing is to occur. This leads us to use principles of client-centred practice and empowerment through informed decision-making, to run our organisations in ways which minimise or take care with the use of institutional “power over” relationships, and to work in society to change individual, group and cultural attitudes and practices which support the factors which contribute to sexual violence. This latter point is a common stance for such services through the Western world. For example:

Services against sexual violence aim to initiate, respond to and participate in proactive and preventative strategies, research, networking and media liaison designed to influence the attitudinal, behavioural and structural changes needed within society to end sexual violence and improve responses to victim/survivors of sexual violence [9]

RCNE best practice guidelines were developed from research with 14 members across Europe. The members’ ideological foundations also underpin the theoretical and practice frameworks, as professionalism, ethical positions and expertise are developed using inclusive and empowering methods of working. [10]

  1.  Henderson, S. (2012). The pros and cons of providing dedicated sexual violence services: A literature review. Scotland: Rape Crisis Scotland.
  2.  Dean, C., Hardiman, A., & Draper, G. (1998). National Standards of Practice Manual for Services Against Sexual Violence. Melbourne: Centre Against Sexual Assault., p. 5.
  3.  Te Ohaaki a Hine -National Network: Ending Sexual Violence Together Tau Iwi Caucus Incorporated [TOAH-NNEST TC Inc], 2009, 4.1.6.
  4.  Thomas, A. (2013). Multi sectoral services and responses for women and girls subject to violence. Interactive Expert Panel: Making the Difference. New York: United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, Fifty-seventh session
  5.  TOAH-NNEST TC Inc, 2009, 4.1.8.
  6.  Humphrey, J., &  White, J. (2000). Women’s vulnerability to sexual assault from adolescence to young adulthood. Journal of Adolescent Health 27 (6), 419-422.
  7.  TOAH-NNEST TC Inc, 2009, 4.1.9.
  8.  TOAH-NNEST TC Inc, 2009, 4.2.0.
  9.  Dean, C., Hardiman, A., & Draper, G. (1998). National Standards of Practice Manual for Services Against Sexual Violence. Melbourne: Centre Against Sexual Assault, p. 39.
  10.  Rape Crisis Network Europe (2003). Best practice guidelines for NGOS supporting women who have experienced sexual violence. Retrieved from

practice examples

  1. Client-centred practice and the concept of empowerment are cornerstones of the ways that sexual assault support services work due to our understanding that they are an effective response to sexual violence precisely because they undermine the dynamics of that violence.

  2. The following excerpt from the Code of Ethics of Nga Whiitiiki Whanau  Ahuru Mowai o Aotearoa/ National Collective of Rape Crisis and Related Groups of Aotearoa Inc demonstrates the importance of empowering practice – as an antidote to violence.
    Whanau Ahuru Mowai/Rape Crisis workers have a responsibility to ensure that clients have as much information as possible for making their own informed choices and decisions. Whanau Ahuru Mowai/Rape Crisis workers shall respect each client’s individual process and be committed to empowering the client and fostering maximum self-determination.

  3. The collective structures of Nga Whiitiiki Whanau Ahuru Mowai o Aotearoa/ The National Collective of Rape Crisis and Related Groups of Aotearoa Incorporated demonstrate awareness of the influence of power in our groups.
    The organisation has collectivism as a fundamental principle, to give flat structures, use consensus decision-making, and retain local autonomy with national affiliation.  This principle is a model for the use of power in groups which aims to prevent institutional power of one person or group over another, to create a space where women can heal and be heard.

  4. The following principle of the constitution of Te Ohaaki a Hine -National Network: Ending Sexual Violence Together Tau Iwi Caucus Incorporated shows a similar understanding
    4.2.3 These understandings (of sexual violence) lead us to believe that to end sexual violence we need relationships built on co-operation and respect (rather than competition and power).

  5. This objective of the SASH-Nelson (Sexual Abuse Support and Healing) also demonstrates the value placed on empowerment.
    3.4 To promote autonomy, self determination, personal growth, pride, confidence and self- esteem for women.

  • In addition, for this group, the minimum criteria for a rape crisis worker includes a knowledge base where they can demonstrate a political analysis of sexual abuse including the dynamics around the imbalance of power. It is important for the survivor that Rape Crisis workers understand that although the effects are personal the problem is socio-political.