NZ is world's worst when it comes to family violence

NEW Zealand has the worst rate of family violence in the developed world. It costs the country up to $7 billion a year.

A large proportion of family violence is inflicted by intimate partners, and by adults abusing and neglecting children. While men are certainly among the victims, it is predominantly women who bear the brunt of this abuse.

Police attended 105,000 family violence incidents last year. On average, they took a call for help every five minutes - 279 each day in total.

Nobody can say categorically why family violence is so prevalent in New Zealand. But everyone agrees that it needs to stop.

"It is by far our biggest crime type... We have a problem. It's pretty well documented. Why? I don't know, I really don't," said Superintendent Tusha Penny, the police national crime prevention manager.

"Every time there's a family violence death, it's looked at, it's investigated and changes are made. And yet, we still have them. We still have people getting maimed and seriously hurt."

Ms Penny said there were many drivers of family harm - the umbrella term for intimate-partner violence and abuse, child abuse and general harm within the home.

Alcohol and drug abuse, poverty, financial stresses and mental health issues were among the main drivers. But, no one could explain why the figures were so high.

Ms Penny said it could be a case where people are reporting more incidents. It could also be that as a country, New Zealand was simply more violent.

"Are we getting more violent? I don't know. But more and more is getting exposed," she said.

"But it's predictable, stoppable and we can make a difference."

Ms Penny said it was a "fundamental right" for all New Zealanders to live in their homes safely.

"This is our challenge - to make people as safe in their house as they are on the street."

Justice Minister Amy Adams conceded that the rate of family violence in New Zealand was "horrific".

"Clearly something is not working. We can and must do better," she said.

Mrs Adams is leading a cross-government review of family violence measures that aims to reduce the rate, break the cycle of violence within families and across generations, keep victims safe and hold perpetrators to account.

When she took on the review, the stats shocked her.

"I knew it was bad, but I didn't realise how bad it was," she told the Herald.

"It's appalling to me that in a country as good as New Zealand, we are the worst in the world for this. We have a rate of family violence, predominantly against women and children, that we should be absolutely embarrassed about as a country.

Mrs Adams said 42 per cent of front-line policing was spent dealing with family violence.

"It happens in every street, and in every home. We need to make people think about this and talk about it. We have to acknowledge it and respond."

Helen Meads, 42, was shot to death by her husband. Photo / Supplied


Family violence: Our lost women


On average, 13 Kiwi women are killed each year by their partner or ex. A break-up or separation is the most dangerous time for women and children who are the victims of family violence. The risk of a woman being killed by her partner quadruples when she tries to leave.

• Emily Longley, 17 - murdered by her ex-boyfriend, Elliot Turner, soon after she broke up with him in 2011.

• Helen Meads, 42 - shot to death by her husband, Greg Meads, soon after she ended their marriage in 2009.

• Sophie Elliott, 22 - stabbed 216 times and murdered in her own home by ex-boyfriend Dr Clayton Weatherston in 2008.

• Virginia Ford, 20 - beaten to death by her boyfriend, Jesse Ferris-Bromley, after months of violent abuse in 2015.

• Ashlee Edwards, 21 - killed by her ex and father of her children, Jimmy Akuhata, who threw her over a bridge then forced her head under the water until she struggled no more.

• Carmen Thomas, 32 - murdered, dismembered and buried in the Waitakere Ranges by her ex-partner, Brad Callaghan, the father of her son, in 2010.

• Ranjita Sharma, 28 - murdered by her estranged husband, Diwesh Kumar, in 2011. He poured accelerant over her and set her alight days after she got a protection order against him.

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