The government spending more to help survivors recover from sexual violence is great news according to ethnic communities – who have plans to develop a national specialist service for victims.
Silvana Erenchun Perez, manager at Shama Hamilton Ethnic Women’s Centre, is feeling hopeful. “We meet women who had never talked about the violence they have experienced before coming to us. They don’t know that they can have support to deal with the trauma they have faced.” Ms Perez says the need for a dedicated specialist service for victims from ethnic communities has been identified for more than ten years. Until now, she adds, “we have only had enough funding to give women a few hours of counselling.”
Shama, a not-for-profit organisation run by ethnic women for ethnic women and their families, has now received seed funding to establish a national service that can respond to the specific needs of people within ethnic communities who have experienced sexual assault or rape. The recent announcement of a $320 million package from the government to better support sexual and family violence responses is welcome and much needed – but advocates like Ms Perez are clear, some of this funding must be directed towards groups that have been under-served in the past.
A recent Action Station report said government underfunding of the sexual violence sector was particularly hurting already marginalised people, including refugee and migrant communities. Anjum Rahman, Shama Trustee, says sexual violence is not often addressed in ethnic minority communities. “These conversations need to happen within their cultural contexts,” she says. “Our plans for a new service for ethnic communities will mean victims are able to access the help they need. We will be able to offer long term counselling once we are fully operational later this year.”
The proposed service has widespread support. According to Dr Rachel Simon-Kumar, Associate Professor of Social and Community Health at Auckland University, “There is strong international evidence that specialist and community-based services provide invaluable support for ethnic sexual abuse victims.”
Dr Simon-Kumar says it is important to listen to ethnic voices. “The lack of research and victims coming forward is used to argue that violence doesn’t happen to ethnic women. It’s important we don’t just assume one size fits all. We need a service for ethnic communities developed from the grassroots.”
The next steps include a national hui for ethnic community stakeholders in the sexual violence and therapeutic sectors. If you have interest in attending this, please contact Shama Hamilton Ethnic Women’s Centre (firstname.lastname@example.org).