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Rape culture a 'national health crisis'

Monday 18 Nov 2013 9:34 a.m.

Organisers of the weekend's anti-rape marches say sexual violence affects both men and women, and is a "national health crisis".

Thousands took to the streets on Saturday across the country, protesting against police handling of the Roast Busters case and what they say is a culture that tolerates rape.

More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition asking Prime Minister John Key to "bust the Roast Busters", and organiser Jessie Hume – who was also involved in the weekend's protests – says she wants Mr Key to table it in Parliament.

"I think this is an issue that concerns everybody," she said on Firstline this morning. "This isn't just a one-off – this sort of thing has happened over and over, and it affects the whole community – families, brothers, sisters, everybody – not just women. Everybody."

In addition to prosecuting the Roast Busters gang, who claimed on Facebook to have had sex with a number of drunk, underage girls in west Auckland, Ms Hume wants police to rethink how they handle rape cases.

The police have been under fire for saying their hands were tied because none of the alleged victims were "brave" enough to give a formal statement. It later emerged a number of girls had complained, one formally, and police were forced to apologise.

"There was a number of things that the police could have done, and I think it does sound a little bit odd that they haven't done anything yet," says Ms Hume. "The commissioner said that mistakes were made – I think that that's a bit of an understatement."

Retired accountant Graham McCready, who has successfully laid private prosecutions against politicians Trevor Mallard and John Banks, is considering taking up the Roast Busters case.

Ms Hume wants more funding for services to help victims of sexual abuse.

"There have been a lot of cutbacks to the crisis services. They're desperately underfunded, and when we're talking about one in four women being affected by sexual violence, and one in eight men, we're talking about something that is nothing less than a national health crisis. It's a public health crisis and it needs to be addressed."

Ms Hume's petition currently has 106,073 signatures, and is still open.

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