Monday, 24 November 2008

knowing is not enough

below are excerpts from a speech i heard on saturday morning by deborah mackenzie, of preventing violence in the home. she was presenting at the pacific women's watch annual conference, to commemorate white ribbon day and the 60th anniversary of the signing of the universal declaration of human rights. i'm posting these excerpts with her permission.

there are various aspects of deborah's speech i found interesting, so i'll break it up into separate posts. this first one deals with her organisation is facing in the provision of services, as well as the lack of safety as a result of court processes.

I think it’s fair to say that domestic violence is being talked about more and challenged in everyday ways. But in amongst this fantastic work at a public level I’ve watched an increasingly noisy preoccupation with victims’ behaviour within a violent relationship and beyond.

What I want to focus on today in the lead up the White Ribbon Day is a caution in expectations about what women can safely undertake when they are in or are trying to leave a violent relationship. It seems to me that at various levels in society, in government policy making, in media reporting, in NGO discourse and in informal exchanges that because we all talk more openly about domestic violence, some people conclude that this openness has changed the real and perceived climate of dangerousness in which women in violent relationships live to one of safety.

I don’t think that the NZ landscape has become more safe for domestic violence victims just by talking more about it. In reality the resources and practices to support abused women to safety are as scarce as they ever were.

We receive on average 125 referrals from the police each week, for Auckland City, not the region. We are told by Police that this level of reporting probably only represents about 18% of all domestic violence incidents in our area. Our team of advocates is always working tremendously hard to support the women... There are never enough advocates...

In addition there is often a serious shortage of refuge space in Auckland. In Auckland region there are around 17 refuges operating. Often these are full and it is difficult to find crisis accommodation for women on a regular basis. From time to time... we pay for women to stay in motels when we cannot find anywhere else for them to go. This is definitely not ideal.

But alongside a gross shortage of resources to help women and children it is also incredibly difficult to keep violent offenders away from them. Of the 125 police calls outs in Auckland City each week only around one quarter of offenders are arrested, the rest face no formal or legal follow up and are free to go. The offenders that are arrested are taken to the cells, appear in court the following day and are then bailed to a different address to that of the victim and are usually ordered not to associate her.

However, at Preventing Violence in the Home we know anecdotally that in many cases offenders go straight from court to the victim’s home and often times will blame and punish her for police/court involvement. A recent report released by Leigh Combes and Mandy Morgan based on interviews with women whose partners had all gone through the Waitakere Family Violence Court found that in many cases the women were being re-assaulted shortly after the offender was originally arrested and while he was on bail. These women were not made safer initially by the police/court knowing about the violence.

Sadly knowledge of the occurrence of domestic violence is not enough to prevent it happening again. And yet it is so often the case that the court and others have a false presumption that because the court knows about domestic violence the offender wont dare hurt the victim again and that suddenly women have the ability to safely work with the offender to end the violence.


Anonymous said...

Yaay Deb!! I think this should be published somewhere.

Julie said...

Thanks so much for sharing this Anjum, I look forward to the other extracts.

Muerk said...

Great speech. Knowing isn't enough when it comes to family violence, we really have to find a way to prevent it from happening.

Anna said...

It's a really important warning against complacency - just because society is more aware of domestic violence doesn't mean those affected by it are any safer.

GZ said...

I second Lex's comment - with a few minor alterations this could be published as an op-ed. These are a bunch of important points that aren't really being said enough in public elsewhere.

It really speaks to the lip service that violence against women gets. There are always billions that can be found in the budget for new motorways, but to find even a few extra hundreds of thousands or million to ensure that New Zealand's women can escape from violence is too much to ask.

stargazer said...

george, that's exactly what i thought when i heard the speech (and it was much more powerful when delivered than it is to read) ie why isn't this stuff front page news? why is it that we have to hear about ponchos and other trivialities?

i remember feeling the same back in nov 2006, when i heard from groups working in the area of sexual violence. the level of services in this country are terrible, the daily struggle and exhaustion of those working in the area is hard to be believed, but we just don't get to hear about it.