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Better family violence evidence needed

Better family violence evidence needed

The Families Commission is recommending improved ways to measure family violence so those working to reduce family violence can make better informed policies and decisions

The Commission, which funds the work of the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse and the White Ribbon Campaign, has just released a report recommending ways data from key government agencies can be standardised to help build a consistent set of information to monitor trends in family violence.

Chief Families Commissioner Belinda Milnes says, “The sector needs consistent and reliable indicators to monitor trends and identify emerging issues to guide legal and policy changes that will help reduce family violence.”

“Family violence is a huge issue for this country - 58 percent of all violent crime is family violence-related, and making a difference here will make New Zealand a significantly less violent place. It’s also estimated that family violence costs this country $8 billion each and every year. Compare that with the cost of rebuilding Christchurch which is estimated to be a total of $40 billion.”

The report says clear and consistent definitions are needed to describe the behaviours that constitute family violence, and also the relationship between the perpetrator and victim.

“For example, if a person is hospitalised following a serious assault, the exact relationship between the victim and perpetrator needs to be recorded. Were they a current or former partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, parent, brother or sister? What was the exact nature of their injuries?”

The report recommends government agencies, and other organisations that collect information, develop and specify their own clear operational definitions of family violence.

It also recommends a provisional set of indicators is put in place to measure trends in family violence. Further work is needed to validate the indicators. For example if an identical occurrence happened in different regions or at different times in New Zealand, what is the likelihood of both being recorded as a ‘serious assault’?

“The role of the Families Commission is to increase the use of evidence for better informed decisions.”


• The full report is available on the Commission’s website at http://www.familiescommission.org.nz/publications/research-reports/family-violence-indicators
• The Commission is a member of the cross sector Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families
• The focus of this work is on administrative data sources – ie data collected by the Ministries of Health, Justice, Social Development (CYF) and the Police.The report’s recommendations are:
o Using a consistent use of terminology
o Investigating the representativeness of the measures proposed
o Investigating the possibility of generating more appropriate measures of intimate partner violence
o Collecting a core set of variables in each data set
o Regular staff training on the importance of good quality data and the current standards for data collection within each agency.


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