New domestic violence stats show psychological abuse as common as physical

New family violence statistics gathered by the Ministry of Justice show psychological abuse is just as common as physical abuse in New Zealand.

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The Ministry of Justice report found only one in three offences were reported to police. Source: Breakfast

The 'Offences by Family Members' report was released today as part of the wider '2018 New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey', with the findings likely to influence future funding for support services.

The survey, which involved interviewing 8000 New Zealanders about their experience of crime, provides an accurate, up-to-date picture of New Zealand's domestic violence issue, according to Ministry of Justice's manager of research and evaluation James Swindells.

"It tells us more about the nature of this type of offending and gives those leading interventions in this area the evidence they need to refine initiatives or develop new ones and to monitor the impact of this work," Mr Swindells said.

Among the key findings were that Kiwis experience mental or psychological abuse from family members at about the same rate as they experience physical assault.

The survey notes that, among all adult New Zealanders who had a partner in the past year, about 100,000 of them experienced psychological violence such as harassment or threatening behaviour.

Source: 1 NEWS

The survey highlights the fact that women who have recently separated from their partners are among the highest risk groups for family violence, and also recognises the disproportionate number of Māori who are victimised, compared with non-Māori.

Māori adults were found to be about twice as likely to experience family violence as European adults - about four per cent of all Māori adults will experience it.

Women are still disproportionately likely to experience family violence, at 2.8 per cent of all adults, compared with 1.2 per cent of men.

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Of all of those victimised in family violence incidents, about 23 per cent suffered injuries, with 15 per cent requiring treatment for either physical, mental or emotional health issues.

Only one in three of those offences were reported to police.

The report also showed that those facing high levels of financial stress were more vulnerable to offending by family members.

Mr Swindells said future cycles of the survey will help to gain a deeper understanding of New Zealand's domestic violence issue by providing trend data.

Dr Kim McGregor QSO - the government's chief victims adviser - said it was now undeniable that New Zealand "absolutely" has a domestic violence problem, and the numbers are there to back it up.

"I think it's really important that we get surveys such as this, because many family violence victims don't report to Police - so we need this sort of data so we know about that unreported crime," Dr McGregor said.

"It will give us a baseline so that when they do a repeat study, they can find out trends - it's reinforcing that we still have a problem, that we must provide for the survivors of family violence.

"We just need to do more - it's just a very, very serious problem and it affects so many people."

Dr McGregor said the results will help government agencies dealing with domestic violence to taper their services, and that it could inform future funding decisions.

"For example - we need to invest in Kaupapa Māori servies, who are dealing on the ground with high numbers of wahine Māori.

"I've heard from my colleagues who work in the field that they have not enough funding and often they're left with the hardest cases."

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Members of the charity stood alongside police and members of the defence force to call for violence against women to stop. Source: 1 NEWS

Dr McGregor said it was good that the amount of psychological and emotional abuse taking place had been documented.

According to 2017 statistics, about 13 New Zealand women are killed by their partners each year, and in that year there were more than 120,000 police call-outs for family violence - averaging 328 per day.

Dr McGregor said psychological harm was also a huge problem, and it was often under-reported.

"Just because there are no bruises, it doesn't mean there is not a lot of harm, coercion and control happening," she said.

New Zealand is at a crucial stage where there are 10 different agencies looking at family violence issues, Dr McGregor said, and it is "the best time I've seen" for getting action on domestic violence.

"I've never seen it before - where government agencies are actually having to get out of their silos and improve services for family violence victims - but we need the funding to get through to the front line.

"To reduce family violence in New Zealand, we need a huge change in culture - that can't just be led by Government.

"It will take some time, but ending family violence is possible - it's human behaviour - and we can change human behaviour, so we can do it."

The full report is available on the Ministry of Justice website.

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