Family violence – it takes a community

Catholic Social Services February 2014 ‘Family violence in our communities is one of the most significant moral, spiritual and social challenges we currently face as a country. As communities of…

Catholic Social Services

February 2014

‘Family violence in our communities is one of the most significant moral, spiritual and social challenges we currently face as a country. As communities of faith in Aotearoa New Zealand, we believe it is our responsibility to take a stand and address this challenge.’ From a national statement on 10 December 2012 by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference and 33 other representatives of Christian and non-Christian religions, Māori and Samoan communities.

New Zealand’s statistics of family violence are disturbing and unlikely to change without people in all communities playing a role in the protection of children and vulnerable adults.

Nearly half of all homicides in New Zealand are the result of family violence. Nationally police are called to around 200 family violence situations every day – one every seven minutes – and this is estimated to be less than 20 percent of actual incidents with many cases never reported.

The Towards Freedom from Violence report, which the Office of Ethnic Affairs released in 2013, looked at family violence across ethnic groups and showed that deaths related to family violence occurred within the families of all cultures, classes, backgrounds and socio-economic circumstances.

The report also revealed that 54 percent of victims are an intimate partner of the offender and 26 percent are children under the age of 15.

Based on people who are ordered by the Family Court to complete a Stopping Violence Programme, 93 percent of family violence offenders are male and seven percent are female.

Why do people stay?

One of the common questions is ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’

The reasons women stay in a violent or abusive relationship are
complex but are often influenced by: a desire to keep the family together; hope that the violence will stop; lack of financial independence; a fear of managing alone; not having the support of extended family; and fear of not being believed. The woman’s self-confidence may also have been eroded over time and she may think that the abuse is her fault or is a normal part of family life.

Another common question is ‘Why doesn’t he just stop?’ Research shows that men who are violent have found that the most effective help was from other men, especially respected peers and people who had ‘walked the talk’. Men also need support if the violence is to stop. The government’s ‘It’s not ok’ campaign launched in 2007, initially aimed to raise awareness of the family violence problem in New Zealand.

As awareness has grown, the focus has shifted towards encouraging people to take effective action when they know about violence in a family.

Research suggests that most violence in families is not discussed or reported to the police. The silence around what is happening in homes needs to change if we are to protect the children and vulnerable adults within these homes, as well as to support those perpetrating the violence to get the help they need to stop being violent.

What can you do?

In July 2013, a series of Faith Community Workshops on family violence identified the strengths of faith communities in helping address family violence. These strengths include the ability to provide:

  • Belonging and community
  • Advocacy for Social Justice
  • Compassion and protection of the vulnerable
  • A sense of treasuring family
  • Leadership by example
  • Diverse skills and talents

In addition, there is a collective wish for our communities to be safe and nurturing for children, families and the elderly.

So what can you do as an individual or as a family?

Take all types of violence seriously – physical, verbal, psychological and sexual.

Ask questions if you are worried that someone is being abused – ‘Are you ok?’, ‘Is someone hurting you?’, ‘Are you scared at home’, ‘Is there anything I can do’, ‘Do you feel safe at home’. Listen and give support rather than advice.

Speak up if you are worried that someone is being abusive – ‘It’s not ok that your kids are scared of you’, ‘It’s not ok for you to talk to your partner like that’.

Make family violence prevention a priority in your neighbourhood, within your church community, at work and at sports clubs. This might include displaying information in the church foyer or at your workplace, talking to your sports club about player and spectator behaviour and, most importantly, being a violencefree family.

Reporting violence

If you are worried that children you know are not safe or well cared for, Child, Youth & Family are available to talk through any worries you might have. Their social workers are trained to work out what kinds of problems a family might have and to find the best ways to support parents to get back on track. Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong. It’s their job to work out if the family needs support.

When you contact Child, Youth & Family you will talk to a trained social worker who will question you to find out what’s going on with the family or children you’re worried about. If the social worker thinks the child is in immediate danger, they will act on your report of concern within 24 hours.

It may take time to assess the family situation more fully but you should be contacted within the month to let you know how they have followed up on your call. If you prefer, you can ask that your details be kept confidential.

CSS response

Our team of counsellors and social workers work with adult and child victims of family violence to help them work through the impacts of the abuse they have experienced and support them in rebuilding their lives. We also work with offenders referred to us by the Family Court and Probation to develop an in-depth safety plan, identify potential high-risk situations and develop strategies to manage situations before they become violent.

Many families want to stay together and for the violence to stop. CSS is able to work with families to ensure children are in a safe environment and to help parents develop more effective coping strategies which lead to healthier relationships.

If you would like to talk to us about counselling or social work support please phone (04) 385-8642.

Contact details

  • It’s not ok phone line – 0800 456 450
  • Child Youth & Family – 0508 FAMILY
  • Police – call 111 if you think someone may be in danger
  • Women’s Refuge – 0800 REFUGE
  • Community Law Office
  • Catholic Social Services – (04) 385-8642


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