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Domestic violence still being minimised by decision makers

December 15, 2011

Domestic violence and its consequences still being minimised by decision makers

A Waikato University law academic who helped change the face of domestic violence legislation in New Zealand says domestic violence and its consequences continue to be minimised by the judiciary and other family law decision makers.

“A proper focus on the psychological, physical and sexual safety of victims would make a big difference to the lives of Kiwi women and children,” says Associate Professor Ruth Busch who is retiring after 23 years.

“The judiciary should be carrying out the objectives of the Care of Children Act and the Domestic Violence Act and not be seduced by the notion domestic violence is a ‘he said / she said’ situation or unimportant if it occurs at the time of separation.”

Ms Busch goes on to say the high correlation between woman abuse and child abuse has been demonstrated repeatedly and needs to be acknowledged, especially given New Zealand’s child homicide rate and that New Zealand needs effective interventions in terms of domestic violence.

Law reform has not delivered what Ms Busch, and others, believed it would and she admits implementation of those laws has been disappointing.

“We were naive because we thought that if we could explain the affects of violence to decision makers and amend violence related statues, the law could become a significant force in enhancing victims’ safety and children’s resilience,” she says.

“We should have known better. Deep seated misogyny and other biases still influence policies and case law about violence even today.”

Ms Busch was born in New York’s Bronx and heard about domestic violence through the very walls of the building where she grew up. She came to New Zealand in 1983 after practising law in Canada and began teaching at Waikato in 1988.

Over the years, Ms Busch has contributed to papers in Family Law, Property Issues in Family Law, Domestic Violence and the State, Women Law and Policy and Issues in Family Law. She has published numerous reports and articles on domestic violence and has been involved in analysing parenting order decisions which arise within the context of domestic violence. She has also researched and written in the area of legal recognition of same sex relationships.

Today, facing retirement, she is working hard on trying to establish an eco-friendly and sustainable retirement community for lesbians.

“Many of us who were part of the Stonewall generation are worried that unless we build lgbti-friendly communities we will be driven back into the closet in our old age.”

In her retirement, Ms Busch also plans to travel, “hang out” with her grandchildren, go bird watching and learn “at least something” about the millions of things she still knows nothing about.

ENDS

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