Mātauranga Māori to help minimise sexual violence trauma

By Jessica Tyson

Māori sexual violence service providers are relieved to hear that kaupapa Māori models of justice will be explored in more depth to minimise the psychological impacts of sexual violence.

The government has announced it will introduce new law changes to ensure that the justice system doesn't further harm victims and survivors when prosecuting sexual violence cases.

National advocacy group Te Ohaaki a Hine spokesperson Joy Te Wiata says the changes address matters that were raised by their organisation many years ago.

Te Ohaaki a Hine works to minimise the impacts caused by sexual violence while using Māori kaupapa and values to do so.

“Presently around one percent of adult sexual violence crime results in a conviction.  The judicial process can be traumatising in itself and it is little wonder that few victims seek legal redress,” says Te Wiata.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues) Jan Logie says instead of just consulting with Māori, the government will continue to work in partnership with Māori advisory group Te Rōpū Māori to find solutions for whānau.

“For a long time we’ve had Māori consulted on our plans.  We come up with our plans then we consult with Māori and they give us feedback, then that goes into the sausage machine of policy making and comes out looking quite different," she says.

“We want to make sure that actually, mātauranga Māori is informing the actions and that we're really making sure that they can feed directly in and that they get to comment and have oversight of what we're doing.”

The proposed law changes include:

  • Tightening the rules around evidence about a complainant’s sexual history, to better protect against unnecessary and distressing questioning.
  • Ensuring specialist assistance is available for witnesses who need it to understand and answer questions.
  • Giving sexual violence victims the right to choose how they give their evidence and undertake cross-examination – for example by audio-visual link or pre-recorded video.
  • Recording evidence given at trial so it can be replayed at re-trial instead of having to be given again.
  • More protections for sexual violence victims giving their victim impact statements in court.
  • Certainty for judges to intervene in unfair or inappropriate questioning, and to address common myths and misconceptions about sexual violence.