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Wellington Women's Refuge criticises judges decision

Wellington Women's Refuge criticises judges decision

*Wellington Women’s Refuge –‘Discharge without conviction makes a joke of the ‘it’s not ok’ message’*

*Wellington Women’s Refuge is criticising  the decision to discharge without conviction a comedian who admitted to performing a sex act on his four year old daughter,  as a making a mockery of the message that sexual violence against women and children is not ok.*

The man was caught by his partner, having removed his four year old’s nappy and was in the process of performing a sex act on the child, after she had come into her parents’ bed during the night.  His wife woke up during the incident, interrupted him and later contacted police.  On Friday the case went before Judge Cunningham, who despite a guilty plea discharged the man without conviction saying:

“He's a talented New Zealander. He makes people laugh and laughter's a good medicine that we all need a lot of.”

The judge said voluntary community work would be a condition of his discharge but it could be carried out using the comedian's "talents" in rest homes or schools”(Stuff)

Wellington Women’s Refuge were appalled with the decision saying, “New Zealand has spent the last four years running the “It’s Not Ok” campaign which tells people that domestic violence, including sexual abuse of this nature, is *NEVER* okay, must not be ignored or excused and encourages victims of violence and those who know violence is occurring to speak out”

“This verdict goes directly against the work of anti violence agencies and campaigns by minimising and ignoring the seriousness of the offence and its impact and discouraging women from seeking legal support for violence perpetrated against them and their children”.

Eleanor Butterworth, Education Coordinator for the Refuge says, “the message this judgment sends women and children about domestic violence is that while the law may be on their side in recognising sexual violence as a crime, the protection of a high profile career is a higher priority for the courts than the protection of a young child from sexual abuse.”

Ms Butterworth stresses “at Wellington Women’s Refuge we often see attitudes such as those expressed by Judge Cunningham thwarting a victim’s attempts to protect themselves and their children.  New Zealanders need to understand just because a child still loves their abusive parent, or because the abuser has genuinely good traits and is admired and respected by people in their life does not mean the abuse is not real or that it somehow cancels the risk to their victims. “

Ms Butterworth says “Those who behave abusively will**also have good traits; they can be good sons, collegugues, and fathers in other respects and have talents that we want to utilise, *BUT* that shouldn’t mean we see their abusive behaviour less dangerous, less damaging or make them above the law.”

The excuse that the man had been drinking for 12 hours prior and did not recall the event is also not acceptable says Wellington Women’s Refuge: “alcohol is an enabler of abuse rather than a cause, it lowers the inhibitions of those people who carry out abuse rather than changing the values and attitudes they hold which causes abuse”.

“In New Zealand we have women and children living with, being hospitalised and dying from domestic violence in astoundingly high rates. What allows violence to thrive in NZ is that we minimise and ignore abuse because we believe that if an offender is a valuable member of society and doesn’t look scary it somehow neutralizes the abuse they perpetrate, but with 649 women and 239 children hospitalised in 2010 and 2006 respectively, and 14 women and 10 children on average dying every year due to family violence, the statistics show that this is not the case. Judgments such as the one delivered on Friday make a joke of victims’ attempts to protect themselves and their children and must stop if we are to lower our shameful rates of violence and sexual abuse in this country.”

In New Zealand police recorded 86,545 family violence incidents and offences in 2008.

Police are called to around 200 family violence situations a day - one every 7 minutes.

Police estimate only 18% of family violence incidents are reported

Half of all violent crime in New Zealand is family violence. In 2008 this was:

• 42% of kidnappings and abductions

• 44% of grievous assaults

• 64% of serious assaults.

At least 74,785 children and young people aged under 17 were present at family

violence situations attended by Police.

84% of those arrested for family violence are men; 16% are women.

The Otago Women’s Health survey 1991 found one in three girls before the age of sixteen are likely to be sexually abused and one if four women are likely to experience some form of unwanted sexual abuse as adults (ie over 16 years) (Mullen et al., 1991).

© Scoop Media

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