Government plan to stop domestic and sexual violence 'only a start' - Women's Refuge

6:48 pm on 7 December 2021

The government has unveiled a 25-year plan to stop domestic and sexual violence, but those at the coal face says now is the time for the real mahi to ensure this is not just lip service.

Close up caring African American mother holding child hands, showing love and support, black mum comforting, caressing kid, children protection concept, family enjoying moment together

Domestic violence support service Shine says the human cost of abuse is greater than the financial aspect. (File image) Photo: 123RF

The government's strategy promises to bring 10 agencies together for a collective response with grassroots organisations - something those on the front-line have long been advocating for.

But the Opposition says the government could be doing more immediately in response to the increased need due to Covid-19.

The government spends $1.5 billion to $2bn every year on the consequences of family and sexual violence.

Domestic violence support service Shine spokesperson Rachel Kain said the human cost was far greater.

"Some people may feel like they have to leave the community, leave their house, leave their home, they may be forced to leave their job and then [face] the impact of not having an income and not being surrounded by their friends and family," she said.

Last year, there were 165,000 family violence investigations recorded by police.

Young people exposed to such violence are twice as likely to attempt suicide.

Almost 168,000 sexual assault incidents happened in this country within 12 months - almost half of victims were between 15 and 29 years old.

Kain said the severity and complexity of cases had worsened since the start of the pandemic.

"For example, one of the key tactics for family violence is isolation," she said. "Of course lockdown makes it worse, it assists that isolation."

Women are three times as likely as men to experience intimate partner violence and wāhine Māori are more likely to be impacted by violence than any other ethnicity.

Earlier in the year, the Auditor-General expressed his concerns about how the joint venture would work with Māori.

But Minister for Family and Sexual Violence Marama Davidson said te Tiriti o Waitangi, Mātauranga Māori and whānau were central to the strategy - thanks to a tangata whenua advisory group.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson

Minister for Family and Sexual Violence Marama Davidson Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

"The tangata whenua advisory group will provide independent advice directly to me as the lead minister," she said.

Women's Refuge chief executive Ang Jury said time would tell if the strategy would work.

Dr Ang Jury CEO of Women's Refuge

Ang Jury Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"Much of the next year is going to be about fleshing out exactly how some of that is going to happen, working ot the governance arrangements, working out the timings and working out the money," Jury said.

"It is a good start but it is only a start and I think we need to recognise that."

National Party social development and employment spokesperson Louise Upston was sceptical of the document bringing about real change at the urgency it was needed.

"I think if most New Zealanders read it [the strategy] they would be like 'what does this mean? What does this mean in terms of what the services are in my neighbourhood, what does it mean if I'm in crisis, and if I leave where am I going to live?'"

Upston said it would be better to focus on the Police Integrated Safety Response model and improve the reporting of harm to children.

Davidson pushed back against claims that work was not happening fast enough.

"We have lacked action for decades for successive governments. We finally have a strategy and an action plan - 40 actions in it - some of them, most of them, have already started."

Where to get help for sexual violence:

NZ Police

Victim Support 0800 842 846

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape Prevention Education

Empowerment Trust

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

Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334.

Male Survivors Aotearoa

Where to get help for family violence:

Women's Refuge: (0800 733 843)

It's Not OK (0800 456 450)

Shine: 0508 744 633

Victim Support: 0800 650 654

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

The National Network of Family Violence Services NZ has information on specialist family violence agencies.

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