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Murder, Rape, Torture Of Women Is NZ Rights Crisis

NATIONAL COLLECTIVE of INDEPENDENT WOMEN’S REFUGES

MEDIA RELEASE – EMBARGOED 21 JULY 2008

Murder, Rape And Torture Of Women Is New Zealand’s Own Human Rights Crisis

New Zealanders are being urged to confront the human rights crisis in their own country, as Women’s Refuge launches its Annual Appeal Week Campaign.

The 2008 Campaign carries the clear message that domestic violence is a human rights issue.

The Chief Executive of the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges, Heather Henare, says people must see domestic violence for what it is.

“This cannot be written off as a women’s problem or a women’s issue. It is an issue of fundamental human rights.”

“Every single day in homes and communities throughout New Zealand, women and children are being denied their basic human rights because they’re the victims of violence and fear.”

“We’re talking about murder, kidnappings, torture, psychological abuse, women having to flee their home, and sometimes their own country, and a whole range of things people tend to associate with regimes overseas.”

“But the reality is that it is happening daily in New Zealand and thousands of women and children are suffering the effects of it every year.”

“More than 200 women and children have died in domestic violence homicides in the past decade and that’s a national tragedy of a scale almost beyond imagination.”

Ms Henare says thinking and attitudes have to turn around, so that there is zero tolerance when it comes to domestic violence.

“We’ve got to stop lives being lost and wrecked and every person in the country has a responsibility to help ensure that happens.”

“Throughout the world there is growing acceptance of domestic violence as a human rights issue and New Zealand needs to make that shift as well.”

Ms Henare says UNICEF has described violence against women as probably the most pervasive human rights violation, affecting as many as one in three women and girls.

People wanting more information or help regarding domestic violence can contact their local Refuge (listed in the White Pages) or visit www.womensrefuge.org.nz and those wanting to donate can do it online, by texting REFUGE to 883 to donate $3, or by calling 0900 REFUGE to donate $20.

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Domestic Violence is a Human Rights Issue

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 sets out the internationally agreed human rights of all people in relation to such matters as security of person, slavery, torture, protection of the law, freedom of movement and speech, religion, and assembly, and rights to social security, work, health, education, culture, and citizenship. The Declaration says that human rights apply to all people equally, “without distinction of any kind such as race, color, sex, language…or any other status”. Human rights law guarantees the set of rights and holds governments accountable for protecting those rights.

The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was the first international document to comprehensively address a range of women’s rights.

Seeing violence against women and children (including domestic violence) as a human rights issue is only something that has happened in the past 15 years or so.

The 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW) sets out ways in which governments should act to prevent violence, and to protect and defend women’s rights. It says violence against women comes from historically unequal power relations in society: The violence will only end by addressing both the acts of violence, and the social conditions, institutions and norms that allow violence to continue.

DEVAW says that governments are responsible for “exercising due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the state or by private persons”.

New Zealand has signed the Universal Declaration, and CEDAW. This means that NZ government has an international obligation to:

• respect women’s human rights i.e. the state must recognise equality between women and men in all spheres; state or its officials must be held accountable when they perpetrate violence against women; private actors who perpetrate violence against women must be prosecuted

• protect women’s human rights – i.e. the state must take all necessary measures to prevent individuals or groups from violating the rights of individual women

• fulfill the human rights of women – i.e. the state needs to ensure opportunities for individuals to obtain what they need – everything from food, water, housing and education, to access to organisations that defend women’s rights (like Women’s Refuge).

In addition, New Zealand has signed The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989. It spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. Every right spelled out in the Convention is inherent to the human dignity and harmonious development of every child.
People should be encouraged to see domestic violence as the human rights issue it truly is, rather than as an issue that a few women and children have to deal with.
The Human Right framework can be assisted by:


• talking to women about their human rights (they are born with rights that no-one can take away from them - the right to life, liberty and security of person, the right to dignity, freedom of thought and opinion, & freedom from torture and fear etc.)
• reporting the stories of individual women that give examples of human rights violations
• promoting the facts on domestic violence
• raising the issue of gender-bias in the way that the state is dealing with domestic violence – especially where victims are not protected and abusers not held accountable
• making the links between domestic violence, and other forms of violence against women and girls such as rape and sexual assault, stranger murder of women, child sexual abuse, forced prostitution, trafficking of women for the purposes of marriage, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, and honour crimes
• highlighting the links between domestic violence in New Zealand and violence against women in other countries
• encouraging all of our communities and our nation to see how violence against women affects us all and must end now.

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2008 ANNUAL APPEAL

KEY MESSAGES FOR 2008 ANNUAL APPEAL

• Domestic violence is a human rights issue – not simply a women’s issue.

• It is the fundamental human right of every person to live free from fear and/or violence.

• Domestic violence takes a huge toll on individuals, family/Whanau and communities (see key facts/figures page).

• Family violence happens irrespective of socio-economic status, age or ethnic group – no community is immune to it.

• Domestic violence includes physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse.

• All individuals must be prepared to take a stand to ensure that the human rights of their fellow human beings are upheld and protected.

• It will take a concerted and collaborative approach at all levels of society to make sustained change and to finally turn the story around for all women and children who have experienced domestic violence.

• The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 sets out the internationally agreed human rights of all people in relation to such matters as security of person, slavery, torture, protection of the law, and freedom of movement and speech.

• New Zealand has signed the Universal Declaration and CEDAW (the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination Against Women). This requires the New Zealand Government to ensure the respect, protection, and fulfilment of women’s human rights.

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2008 ANNUAL APPEAL

SOME KEY FACTS AND FIGURES ON FAMILY/DOMESTIC VIOLENCE


• On average, a woman is killed every 26 days by a partner or former partner

• Every year, 14 women and ten children die in domestic violence related homicides

• 200 women and children have died in domestic violence homicides in the past decade

• More than 80-thousand children witness domestic violence every year

• Police now attend about 75-thousand domestic violence callouts a year –this means about one callout every eight minutes

• Police still believe they only see the tip of the iceberg – they estimate they see only 18% of all violence in the home

• Domestic violence is estimated to cost the country well over $1.2 billion dollars a year

• Men are more likely to be the perpetrators of partner violence and women are more severely affected by partner abuse than men

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2008 ANNUAL APPEAL

WHAT THEY’VE BEEN SAYING AROUND THE WORLD


"Women have a right to live a life free of violence. It is not only one of the worst human rights violations, but also a risk for sustainable and equitable development." Ursula Plassnik - Austrian Foreign Minister

“Fear is not the natural state of civilised people.” – An San Suu Kyi – Burmese pro-democracy leader and winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize

“It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes.” – US Senator Hillary Clinton

“Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. And it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace.” - Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations

“There must be no impunity for gender-based violence. Let me be clear. What we are talking about is not a side issue. It is not a special interest group of concern to only a few. What we are talking about are not only women’s rights but also the human rights of over one half of this globe’s population…. Violence against women concerns not only women, but above all the rest of us.” - Sergio Vieira de Mello, United Nations Diplomat – killed in 2003 while working as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq
“Basically we could not have peace, or an atmosphere in which peace could grow, unless we recognized the rights of individual human beings... their importance, their dignity... and agreed that was the basic thing that had to be accepted throughout the world.” –Eleanor Roosevelt, former US first lady

“We must understand the role of human rights as empowering of individuals and communities. By protecting these rights, we can help prevent the many conflicts based on poverty, discrimination and exclusion (social, economic and political) that continue to plague humanity and destroy decades of development efforts. The vicious circle of human rights violations that lead to conflicts-which in turn lead to more violations-must be broken. I believe we can break it only by ensuring respect for all human rights.”— Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

“It is often easier to become outraged by injustice half a world away than by oppression and discrimination half a block from home.” - Carl T. Rowan, US public servant, journalist and author - one of the most prominent black journalists of the 20th century

"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko, anti apartheid activist in South Africa in the 1960s and early 1970s

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MY JOURNEY TO LIFE

Fear keeps us glued to our old patterns
How you think about yourself and circumstances can keep you trapped
When you shift how you think, your circumstances change.

My name is Kate,

Along with my children, I had to flee my home in New Zealand and am now living overseas. It was the only way my children and I could escape our domestic violence nightmare and be able to feel safe and to start putting our shattered lives back together. My former husband is still in New Zealand and remains a danger to us. I believe he is still capable of extreme violence and that our lives would be at risk if he was able to get at us.

For women who suffer domestic violence, being around people who identify with our situation and who offer support can be encouraging and empowering when trying to change. Every woman who’s been through domestic violence knows that no matter what you do, you cannot bring about change in the behaviour of your abuser. He has to want to change. I remember when I first went into Refuge, I would ask why. Why does he not see what he is doing, why does he hurt the people he is suppose to love? The response I used to hear was “because he can.” It took me a while to work out that in staying with the abuser you are accepting his behaviour, so why would he change.

My journey began at a time at a time when I felt the lowest I had ever felt. My 16-year relationship with the husband I had loved deeply, the father of my two children, had ended.Then I met this new charming, funny man. By the time I realised I was trapped in an abusive relationship, I did not have the courage to leave. I had three children to this man; my self esteem was at an all-time low. I realised I was ashamed of how I lived. I did not want anyone to know what I thought was my shame, including my family. I felt like a failure.
For eight years I lived with verbal and physical abuse, I would walk around like I was walking on eggshells. Every day was about survival. At times I would find myself trying to convince me that life was not that bad, knowing inside that it was not the life I wanted for myself or my children - it was not a normal existence at all. Fear and isolation from family and friends were keeping me trapped in a cycle of violence.

The beginning of the end of this relationship was when I finally found the courage to say I wanted to separate. He just went berserk and pinned me up against the wall by my throat, threatening me and my family if I tried to take his children from the house, warning me I would not be safe anywhere, he would find me. My children were screaming around me.
From that point on he did not trust me alone with the children. If he had to go anywhere he would take one of the children with him, knowing that I would not leave without them.
Over the next two days I was not allowed to sleep. I had to listen to his constant threats and abuse. I was really scared I was not going to get out alive. I tried to say I just needed to go for a walk and got as far as the driveway. He pushed me into the bushes and held the blade of a knife to my eyeball. I agreed to come back inside.
He rang my oldest daughter from my first marriage and told her if she cared about her mother she would “get over here fast”. While he was talking on the phone I sent a text to her mobile to say call the police. She was so afraid she just drove over without reading the text message. After more abuse and violence he agreed to let me drop my daughter back home. I was only allowed to take the baby with me. We were both hysterical as we were driving away. I rang the police while driving. They told me to come to the station. We were so afraid to stop in case he came after us.

This was when I was introduced to Women’s Refuge.
I felt like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The advocate that came to the station just sat with me while I made my statement and supported me and my children through the whole process.
The women at the Refuge gave my family and me the first feeling of safety and freedom we’d had in a long, long time. They were patient, understanding, non-judgmental, and supportive.
Living in the Refuge gave me time to heal, to learn I could make decisions for myself again and plan for a better life for my children and myself.
I did a domestic violence course which turned my life around. I saw the “cycle of violence” it described my life. It taught me the shame and guilt was not mine, I was not responsible for his behaviour and most of all I was not a “meat head” or crazy. I had just lost my self esteem and self-worth. Sharing my experience with other women was so empowering.
With the help of Refuge and with a court order, I was able to leave New Zealand and begin a new life. Police and the courts recognised that by staying in New Zealand, the lives of myself and my children were at great risk.

My journey of discovery helped me to get through the following years of Family Court proceedings, along with the continued support from Women’s Refuge. Without that support the whole experience would have been devastating. There were times in my journey I felt I was fighting a losing battle. It seems through the Family Court when you stop being a victim you still have to continue to fight for your freedom. The abuser starts to play the role of the victim. My husband still fought me every step of the way and tried to make himself out as the one who was being hard done by.
It took six years to reach settlement. Although we did not come out of it all unscathed, we are healing. The children and I live a happy and healthy life. We are now living, not just existing, as we learn to let go of the past.

I have finally finished studying (at least for a while) and twelve months ago started working permanent part-time as an assistant in nursing which I love.


ENDS

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