Changes in approach to addressing family violence must continue
22/06/2017 3:13:04 p.m.

22 June 2017

Changes in approach to addressing family violence must continue – family violence committee

The Family Violence Death Review Committee (FVDRC) says recent focus and momentum on reducing the unacceptable number of people dying as a result of family violence must continue.

The FVDRC’s latest data report shows there were nearly 200 family violence deaths between 2009 and 2015, with intimate partner violence deaths making up almost half of these deaths.

‘Preventing and addressing family violence has to stop being the role of a few and start being the responsibility of many,’ says FVDRC Chair Dr Jacqueline Short.

‘These deaths are preventable. Every day, individuals and agencies work with people experiencing or perpetrating violence and there are multiple ways to intervene before a death occurs.

‘There are opportunities to support child and adult victims, their families and whānau. We should also be working with violent men and their communities in ways that respectfully challenge them to take responsibility for their behaviour and be the parent their family and whānau needs.’

The data report supplements the FVDRC’s Fifth Report, released last year. That report said:

•   there is a need to stop asking victims to keep themselves safe from abusive partners – workers need to proactively make sure victims are safe
•   workers need to provide long-term assistance to victims rather than one-off safety advice
•   there must be more focus on the person using violence, in addition to the victim – changing the behaviours of those using violence is the most effective way to prevent family violence
•   violence must be recognised as being not just physical – it is also carried out through control, coercion and intimidation. These behaviours trap victims.

The FVDRC says work carried out by the Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence, co-chaired by Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley, represents significant steps forward in New Zealand’s work to reduce family violence.

‘The Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill represents the biggest change to family violence laws in two decades. It is a welcome overhaul of our family violence laws and includes previous FVDRC recommendations, including making strangulation a family violence crime,’ says Dr Short.

‘Just this month the Ministerial Group has released two frameworks which guide the police, mental health, social services and other organisations in how to deal with family violence, sexual violence and violence within whānau.

‘While these are huge steps forward, all New Zealanders need to ensure this progress doesn’t falter so we can prevent these tragic deaths.’

Key findings from the data report include:

•   There were 194 family violence deaths over the seven-year period, with intimate partner violence (IPV) deaths making up almost half of these deaths (91). There were 83 IPV death events where there was a known history of abuse, and in 81 of these the women had been abused by their male partner or former partner.
•   Fifty-two percent (43) of the 82 female IPV deaths had contact with the police at least once.
•   There were 56 child abuse and neglect (CAN) deaths, 80 percent (45) of CAN deaths involved children under five years of age. Sixty-six percent of all CAN deaths (37 deaths) occurred in fatal physical abuse and/or grossly negligent treatment death events. Ninety-two percent of these (34 deaths) were caused by direct physical assaults.
•   There were 37 intrafamilial violence (IFV) death events, of which 92 percent (34 death events) involved offenders and/or deceased who were known to statutory services for family violence (CAN, IPV and IFV), sexual offending and/or violence against non-family members.
•    Across all types of family violence deaths analysed, Māori victims and offenders lived in the most deprived areas, while non-Māori deceased and offenders lived across all levels of deprivation. Māori are over-represented as victims and offenders in all family violence deaths.