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Incovenient truths in family violence stats

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Family First NZ says that the Family Violence Death Review just released by the Police reveals a number of inconvenient truths - specifically that children were more often killed by their mothers than any other group of suspects, and that family violence death victims were almost evenly proportioned across male and female adults and children.

"The popular public perception is that women and children need to be protected from men, but this ‘gender’ focus is misleading. Mothers killed 15 (45%) of the 33 child victims, comprising 10 daughters and 5 sons," says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. "If we’re really serious about reducing family violence, we need to talk about family violence, and our violent culture, and the role alcohol and drugs play in fuelling this environment."

"Prominent New Zealand researcher Professor David Fergusson’s research, through the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, found that men and women are equally to blame in dishing out domestic violence and both suffer similar degrees of mental harm. And that’s backed up by government statistics. Ministry of Justice statistics from 2007 show that the prevalence rate for confrontational offences by a partner in 2005 was virtually the same for men and women," says Mr McCoskrie.

"The Families Commission’s 2009 Family Violence Statistics Report revealed that 48% of child abuse - including emotional, physical, neglect, sexual and multiple abuse - was committed by women."

Family First is also expressing concern about the implementation of Police Safety Orders (PSO's) after an internal review by police found that police were being instructed to issue more, were sometimes using them to 'cover their butt' and, according to support agencies, were sometimes issuing them in low risk situations.

"The use of PSO's has doubled in just 12 months to an average of 29 per day. While we acknowledge their usefulness and importance as an extra tool in the war against domestic violence and can allow for a vital ‘cooling’ period, the report suggests that there is much more training needed before they can be classified as serving the purpose they were intended for," says Mr McCoskrie. "It may also be that families and some parents are being unfairly treated as a result of the PSO’s."

Since July 2010, Police have been able to issue Police Safety Orders (PSO’s). The orders are a new option for Police attending family violence incidents where there is insufficient evidence of an offence but action is necessary to ensure the safety of the people at the address. Police are able to order a person off the premises, effective immediately, for a period of up to five days.

While acknowledging their benefits, the report for the police by Victoria University also expressed a number of concerns about the use of PSO's:

- an appropriate risk assessment was not carried out prior to the issuing of a PSO in almost half of cases (46%). This would include determining whether there was a history of at-risk behavior by the offender

- police were instructed in one area that they had 'not issued enough' PSO's

- police admitted issuing PSO's simply to 'cover their butt'

- support agencies said that PSO's were being issued in low risk situations - some victims weren't expecting or wanting a PSO to be served on their partner - and that this may deter future police contact by person at risk.

- lack of assistance for the person 'evicted'

The report also said that in some cases, PSO's were issued where there was clear evidence of violence and other stronger action should have been taken. And some police don't know about the PSO pamphlet outlining information for families.

"The police media release (which went under the media radar in May), while praising the application of PSO's, masked the concerns of their implementation with a comment that the report ‘highlighted some opportunities for improvement’," says Mr McCoskrie.

"The real concern is that PSO's have been used at an increasing rate but without an increasing level of scrutiny and checks to see whether their use is warranted and appropriate. The fact that 89% of PSO's are served on men - despite research showing that men are the victims in 1 in 3 cases - is also an area for concern."

Family First is calling for urgent training, evaluation and reporting of the use of PSO’s in order to ensure families that they are being used appropriately.

"If we want to tackle family violence, we all - men, women and children - need to pledge to stop violence towards men, women and children. This is a family violence issue - not a gender issue," says Mr McCoskrie.

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