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More police change needed: Rape Crisis

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 2/04/2017

New Zealand police have made major changes to how they handle complaints of sexual assault, but the cultural shift needs to be ongoing, a woman who levelled historic rape claims against the force says.

On Monday, New Zealand Police released a report, called "A decade of change", in which it said it had revolutionised its culture in the 10 years since a 2007 Commission of Inquiry report.

The inquiry reviewed 313 complaints of sexual assault against 222 police officers between 1979 and 2005 and found while misconduct was rare, some police had behaved disgracefully.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark ordered the commission of inquiry in 2004 after Rotorua woman Louise Nicholas made public claims she had been raped by police officers.

Ms Nicholas praised police for putting their hands up and saying they had got their handling of some sexual assaults wrong.

"The 10-year plan around [the inquiry's] recommendations... was really important," she told RNZ on Monday.

"It had to have that life for that length of time because change can't be made overnight but it can happen as long as everybody else is on board."

"It was important for me to have police out there actually wanting to do right by our survivors," she said.

National Rape Crisis spokeswoman Andrea Black agrees police have made major changes and said it is important because they played a critical role in ensuring victims of sexual assault felt confident enough to pursue their allegations.

"How we respond to that person when they speak up about [sexual assault] is pivotal to the perpetrating stopping and to healing, recovery and change occurring," she said.

"It is not a blame game, it is about all of us looking to change to live in a peaceful world where sexual violence does not happen."

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