Amicus Curiae: New Zealand's Biggest Problem - Domestic Violence

Content Contributor, Jenna McLachlan

On average, New Zealand police receive a domestic violence call every 5 minutes. In one year the number of reported police callouts have doubled to 100,000 - a figure representing a mere 20% of all domestic abuse incidents. Subsequently, with a national average of 1 in 3 kiwi women experiencing physical or sexual violence at some point in there lives, it would be assumed that the nation would be seeking support to eradicate this issue - and political efforts are being made. Corrective justice system reform and reviews, as well as Black Ribbon political campaigns, attempt to raise awareness of the role abuse has within the nation. However, despite these efforts, the nation's perception remains somewhat distorted around this area; “We know we have problem, but we are often a little bit inclined to cite that problem in other people — it’s that group over there”.

Consequently, despite the above efforts, New Zealand remains the nation with the highest rate of intimate-partner and family violence in the developed world. Unsurprisingly, this fact is mirrored by family violence being the nation's largest specific crime, with 41 percent of police frontline time spent responding to callouts, and a staggering $4 - $7 billion dollars spent each year in costs. However, the true unsettling proposition is that the ‘new surge’ of domestic violence is not uncommon in the nation's history. As Family Violence Co-ordinator Detective Sergeant Jason Perry recognises, the doubling of reported cases in the Western Bay of Plenty in the past 20 years is a result of changing attitudes to reporting abuse, as opposed to a rise in violence.

While family violence remains ‘typically a male problem’ with majority of abuse cases being against women and children, it is evident that domestic violence remains a serious problem amongst all genders and amongst all family relations. The recent case of Hutt Valley woma nDaryl Kirk who shot her stepfather dead, allegedly through self-defence, and the abuse highlighted between solo-mother Savita Alva’s two sons in South Auckland serve as testimony to this notion. Consequently, family abuse is emerging as a larger issue in New Zealand than what was previously assumed, with all races, ages and socio-economic groups being affected.

What remains typical however is the seriousness of the violence, and the detrimental physical attacks on women, men and children that result in the loss of life. For this reason, the New Zealand Herald’s week long ‘Family Violence: We’re better than this’ campaign, aimed to highlight the need to raise education and awareness of this issue, to continue to help fund and support community outreach groups such as PACIFICA and Shine, and the need to address and challenge wider social issues of gender inequality to curb increasing family violence cases. Of significant note were the highlighted changes suggested to the current justice system. This included the enactment of the Domestic Violence Victims' Protection Bill - which intends to provide employment leave for victims to attend court dates - as well as the extension of ‘Judge’s packs’ throughout more court districts - which would provide judges with prior police history records and information as such between the parties involved in the domestic violence case.

All New Zealanders have a right to live securely and without fear in their homes - a notion adopted by The Heralds recent media coverage and by the Justice Minister who is beginning to implement strategies that address family violence. For this reason, it is hoped that that the proposed reforms only recently coming to light will have a positive effect on curbing family violence.

The views expressed in the posts and comments of this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the Equal Justice Project. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. No information on this blog will be understood as official. The Equal Justice Project makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The Equal Justice Project will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information.