New Zealand Law Society - Report calls for more family violence agency responsibility

Report calls for more family violence agency responsibility

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Agencies must take more responsibility for the safety of family violence victims, rather than expecting victims to keep themselves safe from abusive partners, the Family Violence Death Review Committee says.

In a news release on its fifth annual report, the committee calls for a number of changes to how both government and non-government organisations respond to family violence, to reduce the rate of violence, abuse and deaths.

It says women in New Zealand experience a higher rate of violence from their intimate partners than women in 14 of the other 33 OECD countries. Over a 10-year period there were 312 family violence deaths in New Zealand.

Key recommendations in the report include:

  • There is a need to stop asking victims to keep themselves safe from abusive partners - practitioners need to proactively make sure victims are safe.
  • Practitioners need to provide long-term assistance to victims rather than one-off safety advice.
  • There must be more focus on the person using violence, in addition to the victim - changing the behaviours of those using violence in the most effective way to prevent family violence.
  • Violence must be recognised as being not just physical: it is also carried out through control, coercion, and intimidation. These behaviours trap victims.

The report also points to ways in which the family violence workforce - including the justice, child protection and mental health and addiction sectors - can be strengthened and work together better.

Committee co-chair Denise Wilson says in spite of the needed changes in thinking, the committee is encouraged by the willingness of agencies to work in a more integrated way.

She says the report has been drafted in consultation with many of the agencies responsible for policy around family violence and the committee is working closely with them.

The agencies include the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Health, New Zealand Police, Te Puni Kokiri, the Department of Corrections, the Ministry for Women, the Office of the Children's Commissioner, the judiciary, the National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges, and other family violence NGOs.

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