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Partner Abuse And Child Abuse Closely Linked

26 SEPTEMBER 2000


Partner Abuse And Child Abuse Closely Linked


Everyone needs to take responsibility for ending partner abuse and child abuse, says Child, Youth and Family’s chief social worker Mike Doolan.

Mr Doolan, who has 40 years of child protection experience, told a Family Violence Seminar in Timaru today that a US study suggested that in up to 53% of families where women were being beaten children were also physically abused by the same perpetrator.

Another English study showed that in 91% of families where spouse abuse was considered severe the children were abused by one or both caregivers.

Children who witness domestic violence can also suffer social and mental health problems, Mr Doolan says.

“I have been extremely impressed by the recent groundswell of public opinion against child abuse.

“We need to acknowledge that partner abuse and child abuse is everybody’s problem. It is more common than we think and affects every type of home, family, religion, race and culture. We, as a country, need to energetically look for solutions to the problem.”

On the question of Maori being over-represented in child abuse statistics, Mr Doolan says he knows of no evidence that any ethnic group is more predisposed towards violence than any other.

“But my experience leads me to conclude that child abuse is often about adults acting out of stress, a state made worse by social disadvantage of any sort.

“We know Maori are over-represented among poorer New Zealanders. Being poor can never be an excuse for abusing your children but we have to recognise that it does add to stress levels in adults.”

Mr Doolan says the solution to domestic violence and child abuse lies with all of us.

“Child, Youth and Family staff deal with more than 25,000 notifications a year, while social workers make 15,000 child placement decisions within the same period.

“But state agencies like mine can only do such much, regardless of how many resources we have.

“Ultimately, everyone must take responsibility for ending violence and reducing the pressures, like poverty, that can contribute towards abuse occurring.

“Supporting neighbours under pressure and speaking out against violence are things we can all do.”

ENDS

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