Agencies assisting victims of family violence urged to take more responsibility

By Online News Team

Agencies that support victims of family violence are being urged to take more responsibility and provide more assistance.

A report from the Family Violence Death Review Committee (FVDRC) wants responses to family violence improved in both government and non-government organisations (NGOs) to help reduce the rate of violence, abuse and deaths.

The FVDRC says over a ten year period there were 312 family violence deaths in New Zealand. Women in New Zealand experience a higher rate of violence from their intimate partners than women in 14 other OECD countries.

FVDRC co-chair Professor Dawn Elder says a change is essential in the collective understanding of how family violence should be addressed.

She says government organisations and NGOs have a crucial part to play in reducing family violence in New Zealand, but they are not currently as effective as they could be.

“Some of the thinking around family violence leads to ineffective responses from services to both victims and those using violence, 

Treating abuse as a problem that can be remedied solely by giving victims advice and leaving them to take action alone, or treating abusive people as being beyond saving, doesn’t work. Family violence is a pervasive problem in our society that has the potential to destroy the lives of both the direct victims, and indirect victims (usually children), and also the lives of those using violence. We need to work together and improve our responses considerably if we are going to bring about change,” Elder adds. 

According to the report:

  • 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 is 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 identifies how the family violence workforce – including the justice, child protection, and mental health and addiction sectors – can be strengthened and work better together.

FVDRC co-chair Professor Dawn Elder says it is time to change our understanding of how we should address family violence.

“We need to think differently about family violence and understand it is not a series of isolated incidents affecting an individual victim. Rather, family violence is a pattern of abusive behaviour used by an individual and between individuals that can have multiple victims – both children and adults – in the past, present and future,” she says.

She says government organisations and NGOs have a crucial part to play in reducing family violence in New Zealand, but they are not currently as effective as they could be.

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