Unsafe relationships

According to Are You OK, more than half of all reported violent crime in New Zealand is family violence. 75% of serious assaults, 45% of abductions, kidnappings, and threatening behaviour, and 33% of sexual assaults fall into the category of family violence. In 2013, police recorded 95,101 family violence investigations, and it is estimated that they respond to a report of family violence every five and a half minutes, even though approximately only 20-25% of incidents are reported. While 14% of youths report being intentionally physically harmed by an adult, children are also more generally present at 63% of family violence incidents where police are present.

In November 2014, police in Nelson announced their support for White Ribbon Day, which is a New Zealand campaign that melds Canada’s White Ribbon Day movement with the UN’s day devoted to the international Elimination of Violence Against Women. Held on 25 November each year, White Ribbon Day encourages everyone to pledge to “never commit, condone or remain silent about violence towards women.” The police are major advocates of White Ribbon Day and believe its primary goal is to raise awareness of domestic violence so that people know that standing up and saying something can save lives. It is worth noting, however, that even though men do comprise 84% of those arrested for domestic violence, women comprise the remaining 16%. In short, men can be victims of domestic violence, too.

In advice of White Ribbon Day in 2014, Nelson police showcased their family violence unit’s focus on prevention of future violence. According to Constable Kyle Bruning, if police only focused on victims, the male would never change, just go from one victim to the other. Now it’s about looking after the victim but also how to stop creating another victim.” An umbrella term, “family violence” covers everything from a verbal altercation that a neighbour overhears, all the way to someone going to jail for killing their partner. The family violence unit also holds a weekly family violence interagency response meeting, which includes several local organizations and government agencies dedicated to stopping family violence.

How the police deal with a family violence situation depends on what happened. If there is not enough evidence to arrest and charge the perpetrator, the police can issue a Police Safety Order (PSO,) which prohibits people coming together for a specific period of time, and acts as a protection order that supersedes any other agreement, be it tenancy of parental. After a PSO is issued, the police in Nelson work with an organization called the Male Room, which offers a room to men for the first night of the PSO. After this first night, the Male Room can provide several follow-up referrals for the male party so that he can get the assistance he requires. The man is not required to use the free service, but each man does receive an automatic phone call following a PSO, and it provides men with a change to talk about what happened. The Male Room aims to prevent issues from escalating further. The organization also welcomes men who are victims.

In early January 2015, police in Manawatu announced that they had launched of a family violence safety team targeting high-risk victims and offenders back in December 2014 for a three-month trial. The announcement followed a particularly violent holiday season, which police attributed to financial struggles and alcohol consumption. It was said that the team’s goal was to be in close contact with victims and offenders in order to make sure that everyone had access to the best support services available. The team was to work closely with Manawatu Abuse Intervention Network, which provides services to families affected by domestic violence. At the same time, the Manawatu Women’s Refuge also anticipated an especially busy post-holiday period, with the Refuge’s general manager stating that January is the Refuge’s busiest time of year because the holidays were a period “women decided enough was enough. “

In early March of this year, the government announced that it would increase the security for the homes of domestic violence victims (400 women with a total of 600 dependent children) by installing alarms, strengthening windows, replacing locks, installing security lights, and replacing glass doors with solid ones. This program, called the National Home Safety Service, awarded the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges a $3.6m contract in exchange for carrying out this work, which was set to begin 1 July. Justice Minister Amy Adams said that these measures were necessary because “Too many people continue to be re-victimised, even when a protection order is in place.”

By Laura Faas

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