A woman who was raped at the hostel raised concerns about her safety days before the assault

A young woman who was raped in an Auckland hostel says she told him her concerns Work and income caseworker of not feeling safe there two days before the assault.

Sarah, who cannot be named for legal reasons, says she arrived at the Takapuna hostel on February 8 and, as the only woman there, felt intimidated by a group of men drinking alcohol in the common living room outside his room.

She says she told her case manager that she did not feel safe there, but the case manager suggested that she spend the day at the local library.

Thirty-six hours after moving in, Sarah says she was raped in her room by another tenant.

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Provided

Sarah took this video from the bathroom on her first day at the hostel. This shows that the lock on the shared bathroom door is not working.

Videos she took before the attack show that the lock on the shared bathroom door was not working. His bedroom also offered little privacy, with gaps between the doorframe and his bedroom wall large enough for other tenants to see inside.

Sarah says she was referred to the hostel by her Work and Income case manager. Work and Income also paid his bond.

The hostel was used as emergency accommodation by the Ministry of Social Developmentwho oversees work and income, in the past, but only “as a last resort, where no alternative was available”, it is the commissioner for North and West Auckland, Glenn Mckay, said in a press release.

But Mckay said in Sarah’s case it was a private arrangement between her and the landlord.

“When our clients are in private rental accommodation, they choose where to live and they assess whether the accommodation is suitable,” he said.

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A large gap between the door frame and the wall meant that Sarah had very little privacy in her room.

Sarah, a 25-year-old mother of three, is a recovering alcoholic, has mental health issues and is a survivor of sexual assault, having been attacked in a park aged 13.

She found herself in need of a place to stay after breaking up with her partner and being hospitalized after self-harming.

After being discharged, she contacted Work and Income to help her find new accommodation.

Sarah says her case manager found the private hostel, gave her the address and told her to meet the owner.

Thing saw Sarah’s Work and Income account showing a debt of $700 the day she moved into the hostel.

But after being shown her room and seeing a group of men in the living room with beer cartons, Sarah didn’t feel safe staying there.

Knowing that the office of labor and income would close soon, she ran five blocks to see the case officer and requested alternative accommodation.

“She [the case officer] made me ungrateful. She said there was nowhere else and “if you don’t like it, during the day, go to the library or the beach”.

A screenshot from a video taken on Sarah's phone shows large gaps between the door frame and the wall, offering little privacy.

Provided

A screenshot from a video taken on Sarah’s phone shows large gaps between the door frame and the wall, offering little privacy.

Sarah went back to the inn because she had no other choice.

“She has already turned me away. I didn’t want to risk being homeless…so I went back there. It was like, ‘Oh well, get by’.

The next day a new tenant arrived and Sarah says she overheard him telling the others that he had been released from Mount Eden Jail.

After taking her medication, which makes her sleepy, she went to bed. She woke up to find the new tenant raping her.

“My bedroom door locked, but for some reason I didn’t lock my door…the incident happened around five in the morning…”

“I didn’t click on what was going on. I just froze… He didn’t say anything… he just left.

She left the hostel and, with the support of friends, reported the attack to the police.

Sarah called Work and Income on February 11 to report the incident, but said they did not help.

With no money or clothes, as they were taken away by the police for evidence, she had to wait one day for a work and income grant to secure a case and seven days for them to find her a new home.

Police have confirmed that their investigation into Sarah’s attack is in its “early stages”.

Sarah says she would like an apology from Work and Income for not addressing her safety concerns.

“I would like an apology and I would like them to put me in a safe environment… The fact that I went back there and said something… she didn’t take me seriously enough. If someone comes back and says “I don’t feel safe”, don’t force them to stay there.

Sarah also wants her case manager’s actions reviewed.

“The way she handled it was bad… The fact that I came back before it happened, and they didn’t do anything, it actually f..

Kathryn McPhillips, executive director of Help, says vulnerable people should be placed in safe accommodation.

Alden Williams / Stuff

Kathryn McPhillips, executive director of Help, says vulnerable people should be placed in safe accommodation.

This sentiment is supported by Kathryn McPhillips, clinical psychologist and director of the survivor support organization, To help.

She says women should be asked if they are ready to move into mixed housing, and says it is “scandalous” that Sarah was put in a situation she was not comfortable with.

“Why do people who are in need, who are vulnerable in so many ways, expect that they can live with less security than the rest of us?”

Karen Pattie, Head of Advocacy and Beneficiary Information Servicesays Sarah shouldn’t have been sent back to the hostel and another option should have been found when she raised her concerns.

She says that even if accommodation is restricted, Work and Income should be held accountable if it has sent people back to unsafe residences. “There should be an oversight body that goes around and does inspections.”

Shiloh Groot from the University of Auckland specializes in homelessness and inequality, with a focus on Maori.

LAWRENCE SMITH / Stuff

Shiloh Groot from the University of Auckland specializes in homelessness and inequality, with a focus on Maori.

University of Auckland Psychology professor Dr Shiloh Groot, whose expertise includes homelessness and urban poverty, says hostels that house everyone from young families, people with substance abuse issues and people leaving prison “n weren’t always going to be a safe place”.

She says Sarah’s story emphasizes the need for a mandate of aptitude for pensions and inns.

As of 2021, boarding houses and hostels must meet Healthy Homes standards and safety requirements under the Residential Tenancies Act.

Inspections and complaints are handled by the Department of Business Innovation and Employment’s Tenancy Compliance and Investigations (TCIT) team.

In a press release, his National manager Dan Herlihy said a complaint about the hostel was received in June last year but Covid restrictions had hampered efforts to move the case forward.

“TCIT is proactively evaluating current information available in preparation for visiting the address alongside our regulatory partners.”

Thing asked MSD a series of questions, including whether Sarah’s concerns about her safety were taken seriously and whether case managers were trained in this area.

Mckay’s statements did not address them. He also refused to answer questions about the hostel.

“It would be inappropriate for us to provide detailed comment on these matters as it could harm the investigation,” he said in a statement.

Mckay also declined to say whether Work and Income would issue a formal apology to Sarah, but added that she “has been through a very difficult time and we sympathize with her distress.”

The hostel manager declined to comment.

Sexual violence: where to get help

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* Name changed to protect identity.

Linda G. Ibarra