by Greta Yeoman
The number of assaults and sexual assaults recorded in South Canterbury has risen, new police data shows.
Between August 2017 and August this year, there were 220 assaults reported in the Timaru district, up from 179 between August 2016 and August 2017.
Assaults in Sth Canterbury
Current period between August 2017-18, previous period from August 2016-17
Assault: 220, up from 179
Sexual assault: 31, up from 17
Assault: 82, up from 51
Sexual assault: 8, down from 20
Assault: 14, down from 15
Sexual assault: 6, up from 2
Assault: 18, up from 4
Sexual assault: 2, steady at 2
The assaults include family violence incidents.
In the same timeframe, police data showed there had been 31 sexual assaults in the district, up from 17 in the previous 12 months.
There had also been six sexual assaults reported in Waimate in the past year, up from two.
Mid-South Island Women’s Refuge manager Dawn Rangi-Smith said the statistics backed up the increased workload staff were experiencing.
She said staff were busy with clients in family violence situations, as well as supporting those who sought out the Sexual Trauma/Abuse Recovery (Star) Centre.
The centre, based at the refuge’s Sarah St premises, opened in July.
Staff member Paula Knife said at present they were supporting 17 clients, male and female, across a range of ages and “walks of life”.
There was about a 50-50 split between recent and historic cases, Ms Knife said.
“We knew we were going to be busy . . . but didn’t expect [to be] so busy so fast.”
She said the refuge’s long history in South Canterbury had contributed to other organisations being comfortable with referring clients to it, as well as gaining trust from potential clients.
Her colleague, Trina Ramsey, said refuge staff were continuing to see more incidents where either the client or their partner was using methamphetamine (meth).
Ms Rangi-Smith said it was always difficult to know whether it was an increase in incidents – both assaults and sexual assaults – or whether people were feeling more empowered to report them.
“[They are] not putting up with it as much.”