Protection order not suitable for all types of offenders
‘Protection order not suitable for all types of offenders’ – Shine
“A protection order is only a piece of paper unless the woman has enough confidence in the Police and the Courts to use it,” Jill Proudfoot of Safer Homes In New Zealand Everyday (Shine) says in response to the High Court decision convicting Nikki Roper of murdering his ex-girlfriend Alexsis Tovizi in 2010.
“She needs to be able to trust that the response will be quick and predictable, and that the Courts will make safe decisions about custody and bail,” Ms Proudfoot adds. “A Protection Order is just one part of a safety plan, not the whole answer.”
Ms Proudfoot noted the lack of connection between the Family Court and local community agencies. “There needs to be a risk assessment at the point of entry to the Family Court, so that the woman is connected up to specialists like Shine who can help her understand the risk factors and support her safety planning.”
(Tovizi had a protection order against Roper for allegedly strangling her a few months earlier. Roper was released from custody and five days later killed Tovizi in her Linwood home.)
“Roper’s past behaviour -- including three prior convictions for strangulation – would have been the best predictor of his future behaviour. I don’t know if Alexsis was being assisted by a specialist domestic violence service so I can’t comment about her specific circumstances, so these are general comments. Shine Advocates have the knowledge, expertise and experience to work with and help the woman make a sound safety plan. We understand the different types of offender, and factors such as jealousy, obsession, threats, contemptuous language that ring alarm bells,” Ms Proudfoot says.
Shine has been providing support services to victims of domestic abuse for the past 20 years. They receive referrals of domestic abuse victims from Police and hospitals (and many other sources) and provide immediate support to the client by initially doing a risk assessment and designing a safety plan with them. Shine’s focus is to assess the risk of serious injury or death at the hands of the offender. They work together with the New Zealand Police, Child Youth and Family, and other community agencies on how best to protect a particular client, including their children who are exposed to violence.
“Not one size fits all. A protection order is not suitable for all types of offenders as Mr Roper has demonstrated. When the risk is high we need to amp up the response,” Ms Proudfoot says.
Shine provides a progression of services to victims who are considered to be of high-risk of injury or death from their abuser. One of these services is Shine safe@home, which upgrades home security for victims of domestic abuse who want to live in their own home without their abusive partner.
“Almost three hundred families have been assisted by Shine safe@home since it started in 2008, and where the security features have been used as recommended, no-one has been harmed. Government funding through the Ministry of Justice has boosted the programme this year, but additional funding from the public is still desperately needed,” Ms Proudfoot says.
The community also plays a big role in stopping domestic abuse and preventing needless death. “When the community stops blaming the victim, when they demonstrate the same zero-tolerance for abusive behaviour, as they did for Aaron Gilmore, towards victims of domestic abuse, then more lives can be saved.”
If you are living with abuse, or if you are worried about a friend, family member, colleague, or a child, you are welcome to call the Shine national helpline on 0508 744 633. It’s free and confidential.