Media Release 6th October 2023
Family Violence – Silence is not an option
On October 14th the general election will take place and Women’s Refuge is dismayed by the virtual absence of any discourse on family violence through the campaign period. After significant progress in recent years, the country simply cannot afford to ease up on work to eliminate this corrosive social issue.
Dr Ang Jury, ONZM, CEO, Women’s Refuge says:
“Here at Women’s Refuge, we’re hugely worried that family violence appears to have slipped off the political radar. We had more than 50,000 women and children referred to our services last year; New Zealand sits atop the OECD domestic violence ratings; and our media consistently features horrific stories of women and children killed at the hands of their abusers – yet no-one is talking about it and this is simply not okay!”
In August, Women’s Refuge approached major political parties, to confirm their commitment or lack thereof, for Te Ao Rerekura: National Strategy to eliminate family and sexual violence in Aotearoa. Alongside this we sought assurances of continuing support for Te Puna Aonui, the agency charged with progressing the strategy.
The parties contacted were Labour, National, Green Party, Act, Te Pati Māori, New Zealand First and TOP (The Opportunities Party).
Currently Women’s Refuge have received responses from all the above parties apart from Te Pati Māori and New Zealand First.
“In general, the responses recognise that family violence is a blight on Aotearoa and needs to be eliminated. Beyond this, the analysis and policy solutions differ markedly”, says Dr Jury.
The Green Party are unequivocal in their commitment to both Te Puna Aonui and Te Aorerekura as well as providing a link to their manifesto on their policy priorities to address violence.
National confirm that they support the general direction of Te Aorerekura while also planning to ‘set targets to encourage progress towards outcomes.’ A key component for National is to use sentencing policy as a key lever to ensure that offenders ‘face consequences that adequately denounce their actions’. This is a very different approach to that taken by Labour and the Green Parties whose policies focus upon wider social change to achieve positive outcomes.
The Act party reported broad acceptance of Te Aorerekura but, like the National Party, wanted far stronger accountability mechanisms put in place for Te Puna Aonui. Additionally, they want increased rehabilitation in prisons, improved payment of reparations to victims, and changes to sentencing guidelines to provide greater protection from violence for whānau.
The TOP response indicated strong support for the current agency arrangements and plans, along with acknowledgement of the importance of violence-free relationships. However, it is noted that there is an absence of comprehensive analysis.
The Labour Party and the Green Party provided us with a comprehensive, and costed policy position, reflecting on their actions as a government over the past five years as well as their shared view of the potential for lives without violence. For both parties, their commitment to this work is constant and of longstanding, as evidenced by their close engagement with key leaders in the sector.
“Overall, while somewhat reassuring that we now know what those intent on governing our country think about family violence, it is hugely concerning that this election campaign has seen little, or no attention paid to the sheer extent and spread of family violence across all communities, age and socio-economic groups.”
“Aside from the most important point that Family violence has been estimated by countless reliable studies to be experienced by one in three New Zealand women across their lifetime, it is an expensive and time-consuming social ill that must be addressed.”
“The impact of 60% of police work being in response to family violence can only be at a cost to other areas of other priorities, while the estimated annual cost of around $8 billion to Aotearoa must surely merit better analysis, policy development, programme implementation and reporting than what we currently have.”
“No matter the outcome of the election, we need Politicians to commit to this long-term project. Thousands of vulnerable women and children are counting on them.”
• Around 50,000 women and children were referred to Women’s Refuge last year.
• On average Women’s Refuge answers 71 crisis calls per day.
• New Zealand has the highest rates of family violence in the OECD.
• 1 in 3 women will experience abuse in their lifetime in Aotearoa.
• Nearly half of all homicides and reported violent crimes are are related to family violence.
• Around 67% of family violence episodes go unreported.
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