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A zero tolerance approach to domestic violence

Media Release

12 June 2008

A zero tolerance approach to domestic violence

Jane Drumm welcomes moves to strengthen the Domestic Violence Act, but says a zero tolerance approach is needed.

The surprise announcement by the Government that it will strengthen the Domestic Violence Act is welcome news for all those involved in the effort to break the cycle of family violence.

One proposal will see the Police given the power to issue on-the-spot 72-hour protection orders, in an attempt to diffuse volatile situations. Offenders will be able to be physically removed from their home for three days, even if the Police don’t have enough evidence to arrest them.

There will also be tougher penalties for breaching protection orders, with a maximum two years in jail. People who do not attend court-ordered anti-violence programmes will face up to six months in jail, or a $5000 fine.

Preventing Violence in the Home supports and welcomes any initiative to reduce New Zealand’s increasingly high levels of family violence.

But while the Government and social services are doing a great job working together to address domestic violence, it is clear that the actual prevalence of violent incidents has to drop.

The statistics are no secret. On average in New Zealand, 14 women, 10 children and 6 men are killed by a member of their own family every year.

The police deal with more than 70,000 calls about domestic violence every year – that equates to one call-out every eight minutes. That number will only drop when all New Zealanders adopt a zero tolerance to domestic violence.

It is possible for society to change its attitudes and tolerance to certain behaviours. Most people have changed their attitudes to drink driving and smoking in public places and those behaviours, once common, are now regarded as unacceptable. It is now time for every New Zealander to acknowledge that domestic violence is unacceptable.

A classic high-profile example seen recently is the case of the Kahui twins. It is our belief at Preventing Violence in the Home that anyone who knew the Kahui twins were being abused has to accept some responsibility for their deaths.

More children like three-month-old twins Chris and Cru will be killed unless all New Zealanders adopt a zero tolerance to family violence.

All family and friends visiting the Kahui home had a responsibility to report the abuse, or do something about it. All it takes is one person to speak up to save a life, or in this case, two lives. Domestic violence thrives in secrecy.

Domestic violence perpetrators have reported that hearing a simple 'cut it out' from someone close, like a friend or family member can have an enormous impact. Alternatively, support is available from government agencies or through the national domestic violence helpline 0508 DVHELP (0508 384 357).

Ordinary New Zealanders need to share in the responsibility to stamp out domestic violence.

New Zealanders need to open their eyes and understand the extent of the problem. Everyone needs to recognise the signs, know how to help safely and be prepared to take action.

Domestic violence loves secrecy – it thrives in homes where it is kept hidden and under wraps. All New Zealanders need to accept the challenge to face domestic violence head on, and not ignore the warning signs.

The Bank of New Zealand is an example of a corporate citizen brave enough to take on the issue of domestic violence, through its partnership with Preventing Violence in the Home.

The courage shown by the Bank of New Zealand in being prepared to help break the cycle of family violence serves as a challenge to all big companies. Domestic violence is an ugly issue, in every community in New Zealand.

Changing New Zealand’s sad record of domestic violence is a complex, difficult challenge. It will require collaboration and persistence to address a social problem which is all too common in New Zealand, and of great concern for many of us.

Preventing Violence in the Home, with the support of Bank of New Zealand, is running a two week campaign ‘Stop for New Zealand’s Biggest Morning Tea’ to raise awareness about domestic violence, and fundraise for a toll-free domestic violence helpline 0508 DVHELP (0508 384 357).


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