More than 23,000 New Zealanders have been interviewed over the past three years for research to understand crime trends and why crimes go unreported.
It found sexual assault and fraud were likely to be the most under-reported crimes, with only seven or eight per cent of incidents reported.
Car theft had the highest likelihood of being reported, about 91 per cent.
The New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey, carried out by the Ministry of Justice, conducted between 7000 and 8000 face-to-face interviews annually between 2018 and 2020.
The interviewees, all over the age of 15, were asked about incidents of reported and unreported crime they had experienced in the last 12 months.
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Ministry of Justice deputy secretary sector Tim Hampton said census data was used to ensure those interviewed are representative of the overall population of New Zealand.
The survey’s findings, released on Wednesday, revealed 9 per cent of adults who had experienced sexual assault had diverse sexualities, making this group at “very high risk” of sexual assault.
Hampton said one figure that stood out was that 75 per cent of sexual assault victims didn’t feel what happened to them was a crime.
Among those who did consider the incident a crime, the reporting rate was almost three times higher, 22 per cent.
The most common reasons for not reporting sexual assault incidents to police were shame, embarrassment, further humiliation, and the fear of reprisals or that it would make matters worse.
The data for 2019-2020 found one in 11 females aged 15-19 were sexually assaulted in the previous 12 months and more than half of sexual assaults were perpetrated by an intimate partner, other family member or someone the victim already knew.
Hampton said the data shows the experiences of sexual assault victims are not typically “what you would pick up if you were watching television”.
“This idea that staying away from dark alleys and not going out late at night, it’s such a small part of the story. Sexual assault, sexual violence and family violence are really important issues for New Zealand society,” he said.
Sexual violence advocate Louise Nicholas said a lot of sexual assault survivors she had worked with felt in a lot of ways what happened to them was their fault and that no one would believe them.
“They tend to, as an example, think I was drinking, he was drinking I don’t remember a lot, that whole stigma and rape culture that comes into it, especially for our young women, who tend to look at self-blame.”
The majority of offenders probably feel like they also hadn’t committed a crime too, Nicholas said.
“They don’t believe what they have done is a crime because they didn’t say no or think ‘I just assumed she wanted it,’” he said.
Nicholas said in order to create prevention measures using the data, the high risk groups needed to be consulted.
Overall, the survey data collated showed that women who are separated or divorced are significantly more likely to be victims of crime, while men who are married, in a civil union, or in a de facto relationship are significantly less likely to be victimised.
It found M?ori are victimised more than any other ethnic group.
When it came to fraud, which could include the use of stolen credit cards or having money taken from online scams, Hampton said people didn’t typically report it because they felt it wasn’t worth it, and weren’t sure if anything would come of the complaint.
“Another interesting thing that came through is its actually well-off household that are less likely to report fraud, whereas low income households tend to report fraud much more commonly.
“There is a couple of things going on there, one being the amounts involved might not be a large share of a well-off households’ income. People like to say that well-off people aren’t often the victims of crime, so there’s a bit of a shame going on there as well.”
The survey also found the number of burglaries per household fell from 18 per cent in 2018, to 14 per 100 in 2020.
“There was already a downward trend in burglaries before the COVID-19 lockdown, and this trend appears to have to accelerated since then.
“It is particularly encouraging to see that some of the biggest declines in burglaries has been for those that have historically been the most likely to be burgled, such as M?ori and low-income households,” Hampton said.
There were significant decreases in burglaries in North Island towns and cities apart from Auckland and Wellington, for example the rate of burglaries and overall household offences in the Manawat?-Whanganui region halved in 2020 compared with 2018.
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