Principle 9: accessible supports

The nature of sexual violence requires an immediate 24/7 response.

  • Accessible to all victims/survivors:
  • At no cost to the victim/survivor.
  • Via routes that survivors can use - 0800, face to face, phone, e-mail, web-sites, texts, video-conferencing for rural clients.

Crisis services need to be available 24/7, 365 days per year because:

  • Sexual abuse and assault may occur at any time, including weekends and holidays.

  • There is anecdotal evidence that sexual abuse and assault occur more often at night, as context and opportunities for sexual abuse and assault are greater during those times.

  • Flashbacks and nightmares following sexual assault can happen anytime, but often happen at night.

  • Disabling terror following sexual assault can happen anytime, but mostly happens at night.

  • Privacy to talk on the phone about something that you feel ashamed and distressed about when you do talk about it can happen anytime, but often happens at night.

  • Crisis services need to be immediately available, with sufficient specialist staff able to respond to victims/survivors needs.

Research has indicated that a long delay between attack and seeking assistance contributes to the scale of psychological difficulties people present with. Recommendations from survivors were that there be more services and that they be more widely advertised.[1]

  • Crisis support services should be contacted immediately following a sexual assault disclosure to police so that supports are available as early in the process as possible. This helps to ensure client emotional safety in waiting times and waiting areas.

Crisis support workers need time to develop the relationship which they will use to perform support functions through the medical or police interview.

Accessing an immediate response following sexual assault can be challenging for victims/survivors who reside in rural communities, as services in such locations often operate with limited resource (funding) and capacity[2]. To ensure specialist sexual violence supports are accessible to victims/survivors in rural communities, it is essential for the sector to advocate for the funding of community-based services.

  • Services need to be accessible to all victims/survivors. To ensure accessibility of supports, there is a need for:

  • Access to free services.

Free services are essential, in particular as low income groups are highly represented among survivors of sexual violence. In one US study, 63% of the sample reported an annual household income of $30,000 or less.[3]

In an evaluation of rape crisis services in New York, survivors reported that lack of accessibility and cost were factors that led to them not accessing services.[4]

Ensuring access to free support services can alleviate distress for victims/survivors. One study reported a relationship between financial hardship and sexual violence. This was firstly in relation to the psychological impact of sexual assault impacting on capacity to maintain employment, and secondly income and asset poverty increase risk for sexual violence and can inhibit recovery.[5]

  • Sufficient numbers of services to cover geographic spread of the population.

  • Sufficient service capacity to meet increasing levels of demand.

  • Sufficient service capacity to support the diverse needs of victims/survivors. This includes providing physically accessible services for people with disability

  • Multiple options for victims/survivors to access support, which can include: Face to face contact, freephone 0800 telephone support, online (email, live contact through service websites), text, video-conferencing.

A US study investigated 24/7 crisis service access and found most callers (68.6%) to the sexual assault service hotline called as “in crisis” so needed immediate service.[6]

  • Services need to be linked into local communities so appropriate referrals are made.

Where a certain population cannot be well served by a particular service, for example, where a service does not work with a group such as men or young people, that service would be a part of making arrangements or highlighting the need for that population to be served.

  • Services need to be advertised in ways that all sectors of the population know that they are available and how to access them in their locality.

Advertising needs to be targeted particularly at demographic groups that are known to be most likely to be victimised (e.g. people with mental health difficulties; people with disabilities; children and young people; sex workers; known victims of abuse).

Service promotion needs to ‘out’ sexual abuse and assault as a critical social issue and requires on-going national promotion, including strategic media coverage (e.g. television, radio, magazines, internet).

  1.  Monroe, L.M., Kinney, L., Weist, M., Dafeamekpor, D., & Reynolds, M. (2005). The experience of sexual assault: Findings from a statewide victim needs assessment. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 20, 767- 776.
  2.  Annan, S. (2011). It’s not just a job. This is where we live. This is our backyard: The experience of expert legal and advocate providers with sexually assaulted women in rural areas. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association 17(2), 139-147.
  3.  Valentiner, D., Foa, E., Riggs, D., & Gershuny, B., (1996). Coping strategies and posttraumatic stress disorder in female victims of sexual and nonsexual assault. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 455- 458.
  4.  Fry, D. (2007). A room of our own: Sexual assault survivors evaluate services. New York: New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault.
  5.  Loya, R. M. (2014). The role of sexual violence in creating and maintaining economic insecurity among asset-poor women of color. Violence against women 20 (11), 1299-1320.
  6.  Wasco, S., Campbell, R., Howard, A., Mason, G., Staggs, S., Schewe, P., & Riger, S. (2004). A statewide evaluation of services provided to rape survivors. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19, 252-263.

practiCe examples

  1. Being accessible to young people:
    Working with local school counsellors to offer a service in high schools. web-site offers information to young people about how to support peers.  

  2. Improving access through having offices in several areas of a region as does Wellington HELP with their offices in Wellington, Porirua and Kapiti, and Rape Crisis groups in Dunedin who provide outreach support sessions in Oamaru, and Hamilton who provide counselling sessions in Raglan.   

  3. Offering a mobile service – going to the clients if they can’t get to the office.