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Many More Women At Risk Of Horrific Violence

15 December 2006

Many More Women At Risk Of Horrific Violence

Many more women and children are at risk of the same kind of horrific violence seen in the latest murder-suicide in Whangarei at the weekend, Women’s Refuge warns.

“As we move into the high domestic violence homicide season, we need people to be aware of the danger signs and to take immediate action to save lives and stop serious harm,” says Heather Henare, National Manager of the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges.

There have been 7 murder-suicides just in the last three months. Men killing their partner or ex-partner, and then themselves, is a common theme. Over the last ten years or so we have also had too many cases of men killing their children and then taking their own lives.

Half of all of our murders in this country are domestic violence.

Last Christmas, six women were murdered by their partners leaving 19 children without mothers.

Women’s Refuge had 13% more new women accessing their services during the summer months of 2005/6 compared with 2004/5.

Women’s Refuge urges women to get help for themselves and their children before it is too late. Domestic violence advocates are available 24 hours a day. Women should also not be afraid to ring the Police and to seek legal protection. Despite recent focus on the problems with Protection orders, they can work if women know how to use them and if women get a domestic violence advocate to help them.

Ms Henare was critical of the culture of tolerance to domestic violence in this country.

“Domestic violence is much more out in the open than it used to be. Yet still we have people saying “its not my problem” and “it’s a private family matter”. We shouldn’t be letting women deal with the violence alone. We shouldn’t be letting violent men get away with controlling, hurting and killing their families” she said.

The recent manslaughter decision by a Napier jury considering the brutal killing of a woman by her partner using a cricket bat, was just one of the indications that people in this country make excuses for violent men and blaming women.

“Domestic violence murders are predictable - we can stop them ” said Ms Henare. “There has usually been a long history of a controlling if not violent behaviour from a man before he kills his partner or ex-partner. Often violent men have been threatening violence for a while. They may be been stalking or harassing the woman, attempted suicide, be depressed or really angry about the relationship break-up, and can’t let go.”

“Research also shows that most murders are planned. It’s not about men just ‘going crazy’ – they have often been talking about it, making threats, and making plans for the murder way before the event” said Ms Henare.

“Ending a relationship or getting into a new relationship are the most dangerous times for women. We know that most murders happen within a few months of women leaving”, said Ms Henare.

“In the lead up to a domestic violence murder there is always someone who knows there is a problem, that someone could be you,” Ms Henare said.

Women’s Refuge is calling on people to take urgent action when they see any of the warning signs, to support women and children who are being abused and stop making excuses for violence.

Domestic Violence Danger Signs

There has usually been a history of a controlling and/or violent relationship before men kill their partner or ex partner. The following are warning signs that have been identified from the reviews of domestic violence killings.

* Threats to kill or commit suicide
* Jealous and controlling behaviour
* Stalking or harassment (including texting, emailing, phoning, checking)
* Previous domestic violence, especially increasing severity or frequency of violence
* A relationship break-up, victim starts a new relationship or applies for a court order
* Isolation of victim (they have no social or family support)
* Aggravating problems (drug and alcohol misuse, some mental health problems)
* Violence to others (bar fights, harming animals, using weapons)
* Abuser is obsessed and unable to let go
* Victim is very afraid

Making plans for safety

There are things that victims of violence can do to be safer.

If you are in danger at any time, ring 111.

* If its safe, get together a bag that you can leave with a friend or whânau/family member or have them in a place you can get to in a hurry, including:
* copy of Protection Order and other court orders
* medicine for you and your children
* copies of Birth certificates for you and your children
* passports for you and your children
* clothes
* toiletries
* children’s toys
* spare cash, ATM card and money for taxi/bus if needed
* drivers license
* copies of bank details
* any other important documents eg insurance, residency
* important phone numbers
* your loved and treasured items like photos or jewellery.

* Keep the emergency numbers with you – Police, Women’s Refuge, Doctors, Lawyers, friends and whânau/family.

* If possible get a cell phone and keep this with you (even one without money can be used to call Emergency 111).

* Talk to your friends and neighbours. Let them know that you are at risk. Set up a code with them so that they know if you are in danger and they should ring the Police.

* Set up a secret word with your children that you can use in emergencies. If children hear it, they should run from the house and go to a safe neighbours place to call the Police.

* Plan and practice a safe escape route from the house for you and your children. If you are trapped in the house, run to the safest room – one where you can escape to outside. Keep away from the kitchen and garage, and anywhere where weapons are kept.

* Trust your own instincts. You will be the one who has the best idea of what the violent person might do.

* Get the help and support of an advocate. An advocate can help you work out the safest options. You can ring a confidential crisis line anytime. Your local Women’s Refuge number is under ‘W’ in the White Pages or see www.womensrefuge.org.nz


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