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Shine Supports Recommendations Of NZ Family Violence Death Review Committee 6th Report

Shine wholeheartedly supports the recommendations of this report about ‘Men who use violence’, released today by the NZ Family Violence Death Review Committee.

According to Shine Policy Advisor Holly Carrington, “There has been a lot of attention on the impact of the lockdown on the problem of family violence. It’s important for people to understand that family violence is about the use of coercive control over intimate partners and family members, and that the lockdown has simply created conditions where there are more opportunities to control partners and family members, and less opportunities for those affected to get help and support. But this has been a massive problem for a very long time and it’s not going to go away until we as a country heed the complex and multi-faceted recommendations of this report about men who use violence.”

“The recommendations are complex and multi-faceted, because that’s what we are dealing with. The epidemic of intimate partner violence in New Zealand is overwhelmingly men using violence and coercive control on intimate partners and children, and it was not created in a vacuum. It is not happening because we just happen to have an abundance of men with anger problems, or mental health problems, or any other individual pathology.

“It is happening because we continue to live in a society dominated by Western patriarchal beliefs and system responses that have been imposed on Māori and other indigenous peoples through the process of colonisation.”

While Māori are disproportionately represented among the 97 men in this report who killed their intimate partners, there is also significant representation of European, Pacific Island, Asian, African and men from other ethnicities.

“We agree that the only way we will see a significant reduction in intimate partner violence, is by providing services for men who use violence that respond to the ‘whole person’ – not just treating men as a list of problems. This means addressing past trauma, which for most men in the report, and most men that Shine has worked with includes experiencing family violence as a child, and for many of these men this has been an intergenerational problem.

“And we agree that responding to the ‘whole person’ also means acknowledging and addressing the collective and intergenerational trauma Māori experience caused by colonisation and ongoing structural inequities and racism. We cannot continue to privilege Western ways of thinking and responding to violence, as these so often fail to address structural inequities. So we also agree with the report’s recommendation to centre Kaupapa Māori approaches that reaffirm Māori knowledge and practices which are key to improving the identity, health and wellbeing of Māori whānau, hapū and iwi,

“At a practical level,” says Carrington, “we agree that Aotearoa New Zealand urgently needs more and better services that are available and accessible when these men need them or are ready to engage, not only in response to an episode of violence. This report highlights that for most of the 97 men who had killed an intimate partner or ex-partner, there had been numerous missed opportunities for various institutions and organisations to engage and support these men in a meaningful way in order to move them away from the use of violence. What is needed is a whole system approach that includes the education, health, justice and social sectors and that addresses not just individuals’ use of violence, but importantly also the structural inequities that they, their families and whanau experience as unjust barriers to wellbeing and a good life.

“Instead of a system that responds to one violent episode at a time with a narrow focus on that episode, we need to be addressing the needs that men who use violence perceive as being core to their dignity and mana - such as housing and employment. Supporting men in this way will help to break down barriers to engagement in a change process, so that men are better supported while being held accountable for their violence, in order to create lasting change.”

At the same time, it is critical that any enhancement of services for men who use violence is not at the expense of services to support adult and child victims of family violence.

“We also wholeheartedly agree with the report’s recommendation to ensure that professionals in all parts of the system – education, health, justice and social services – have a far better understanding of the impact on children experiencing family violence, as this is fundamentally where a pathway can begin towards the use of violence to intimate partners.”

“I know that many New Zealanders will struggle with the idea that patriarchy is alive and well in this country. But many of the changes that people take for granted were in fact relatively recent. It was only in 1985 that rape within marriage became recognised as an illegal act. And as the report points out, which agrees with the experience of so many of our clients who’ve experienced intimate partner violence, today’s Family Court continues to make decisions that prioritise a father’s ‘right’ to have access to his child over the rights of that child and mother to be safe from violence and abuse.

Finally, the report makes an important point that our system responses need to stop putting all the pressure and burden on mothers who experience partner violence to protect themselves and their children, and start including fathers in their responses. This ‘father inclusive practice’ should focus on the quality of men’s parenting, and needs to explicitly include respectful treatment of the other parent as an important part of providing safety and wellbeing for children.

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