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Exposing dark domestic violence secrets

King: We still must do more to expose dark domestic violence secrets

An increase in domestic violence call-outs and arrests over the past decade shows society is becoming much more open in terms of reporting and exposing the level of such violence, says Police Minister Annette King.

"It's clear we still must do much more, however, to encourage New Zealanders to come forward to expose what has been New Zealand's dark secret," she says.

"When a call-out results in the police being able to prevent a domestic violence incident happening, then that can probably be considered a success story. But when the call-out is to a serious assault or a death, then that is a tragedy that somehow society might have been able to avert."

Ms King today released figures showing the number of recorded family violence occurrences over the past 10 years have increased from 31,654 in 1996 to 63,685 in 2005, with arrests increasing over that period from 9311 to 18,305.

The greater focus by police on violence and abuse – combined with the community no longer tolerating such behaviour - has contributed significantly to the increase in recorded violence statistics.

"The increase might seem dramatic, but sadly I still think we are uncovering only some of the tragedies occurring behind closed doors. Social agencies, the police and churches are doing their bit to encourage reporting of this horrible crime, usually committed against women and children, but what we don't know is happening is probably hurting someone right now. That's a chilling thought."

Ms King says society is increasingly realising that domestic violence cannot be left for police and other agencies to deal with on their own. "Most people are horrified by domestic violence, but that doesn't stop it being a shame upon all of us. Our society has condoned and accepted domestic violence for far too long, and we all have to take what responsibility we can for changing attitudes around."

"Various programmes, some joint initiatives between Police, Ministry of Justice, Child Youth and Family and the community sector, specifically target domestic violence, but such programmes are only a bandaid. Society itself has to change. Domestic violence occurs deep within families, within the sanctity and privacy of homes, and if you know it is happening to someone in your family or who lives near you, please tell someone who can stop it happening."

Ms King says she hopes increases in police numbers and in resources for call centres will encourage people to report domestic violence whenever it happens. "We are now far better placed than we've ever been to do something about it."


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