23 May 2018

'He ended up trying to run her over with the car'

12:23 pm on 23 May 2018

Police figures reveal there is a domestic violence callout every four minutes.

Domestic violence

Photo: 123RF

An RNZ Insight investigation has discovered police responded to 121,733 family violence callouts last year, 3000 more than 2016.

Police said it was good more people were asking for help but it estimated up to three-quarters of abuse was never reported.

Police are trialling a scheme to reduce family violence. Whāngaia Ngā Pā Harakeke (nurturing the family) is running in Gisborne, Northland and South Auckland.

Gisborne's rate of family violence is the highest in the country - more than three times the average.

Joy (not her real name) has lived in Gisborne her whole life. She ended an abusive relationship more than two decades ago and is now worried for daughter who is currently in a violent relationship.

"I could see all the bruises on her legs. He ended up trying to run her over with the car and even I still can't fathom why she keeps going back," Joy said.

Because of her daughter's situation, Joy looks after her four grandchildren. They are one of about 400 Gisborne families receiving support from Whāngaia Ngā Pā Harakeke.

"I would have never gone to the police before. Hell no. But they've given me a voice," she said.

Joy has access to a personal police officer at any time. They can help arrange medical care, court support and legal appointments, and act as someone to talk to.

Whāngaia Ngā Pā Harakeke Gisborne leader senior sergeant Greg Brown said it was about building relationships with families to find out why the violence was happening.

"Whānau walk into our office, when they'd never walk into a police station, for a cup of tea. That's huge."

It was a different approach to traditional police work but had been a success, he said.

"You're talking people with gang connections, drug addictions, mental health, [and] serious long-term violent relationships. And they literally walk in and say, 'I need help'."

Some services still not available

However, Joy said some help was not available, such as counselling for her grandchildren.

"Here in Gisborne, being a small place, you cannot really get the help for the children."

Auckland University family violence researcher associate professor Janet Fanslow said support for victims had been underfunded for a decade.

Auckland University associate professor Janet Fanslow.

Auckland University associate professor Janet Fanslow. Photo: RNZ/Dan Cook.

While the $76 million boost to frontline services announced in last week's Budget would help, it was not enough to cope with increasing demand, she said.

"In some ways we are actually asking people to do a lot more from the NGO basis than they've been funded to, historically."

The Backbone Collective, a watchdog organisation that focuses on the systems set up to help abused women and children, agreed.

While police efforts were to be praised, other parts of the puzzle needed fixing, co-founder Ruth Herbert said.

"Counselling, the crisis services, housing, income and what's happening with benefits, and the family court that Backbone has looking at particularly... We're just not going to get there unless we look right across."

The government set aside $2m in the Budget to set up a national body to lead a whole-government response to family and sexual violence, but it is unsure what it will look like.

*You can listen and read more in RNZ Insight's investigation into Family Violence on Sunday Morning with Wallace Chapman.

Where to get help:


NZ Police

Victim Support 0800 842 846

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape Prevention Education

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0

Family Violence

Women's Refuge: (0800 733 843)

It's Not OK (0800 456 450)

Shine: 0508 744 633

]http://www.victimsinfo.govt.nz/ Victim Support]: 0800 650 654

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.