Sexual assault support service for both males and females

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by Greta Yeoman

South Canterbury’s sexual harm support service is trying to get the word out that it is for both male and female sexual assault survivors.

The Courier was contacted by a Timaru man who said he had been referred to Christchurch support services for male survivors of sexual assault by a national rape crisis hotline, while his GP had also told him there was no support in the region.

Mid and South Canterbury Women’s Refuge manager Dawn Rangi-Smith said the Star (Sexual trauma, abuse, recovery) Centre team had hosted several network meetings with various health professionals and community organisations, but it was up to individual organisations and services to remind their staff it was available.

“If in doubt [about whether the Star Centre can help], give us a call.”

“That’s the whole reason the service was established.”

The centre in South and Mid Canterbury was set up because the Ministry of Social Development had seen the gaps in support services in Canterbury outside of Christchurch, Ms Rangi-Smith said.

“That’s the whole reason the service was established.”

Since it opened about 18 months ago the centre had supported both women and men who had suffered recent or historical sexual harm.

Many people self-referred to the Star Centre after hearing about it through word of mouth, particularly through other clients who had given “a lot of good feedback” about the service, Ms Rangi-Smith said.

The centre often saw an increase in the number of men seeking support following high-profile abuse cases, such as the one earlier this year in which former Australian cardinal George Pell was jailed for sexual abuse.

“We get quite a few calls after [reports] like that.”

It was the “biggest thing” for men to reach out for support and acknowledge what had happened.

“It gives them the sense of getting some of the power back, [acknowledging] it’s not their fault.”