Bonnie Robinson discusses the Government’s latest campaign Recently I had one of those “ a-ha” moments. You know them; that point at which the penny drops and you finally get something. Not just understand it, but feel it, know it, believe it in a way that will forever change you. I was talking with a group that provides alternative education for young people who have dropped out of school. At the request of the kids, they were reading Alan Duffs’ Once Were Warriors. They had got to a part in the book where Jake was hitting his wife and children. In talking through the chapter, the general consensus amongst the girls in the class was that while hitting the kids might not be OK, the wife had asked for it because she had been “ lippy” .
Suddenly all that academic information I had read about generational patterns of family violence became real. Many of these kids have grown up seeing violence, and hearing violence. Many have been hit themselves. Some will go on to hit or be hit in their own relationships. Th ey’ll go on to expect it. Not to want it, for no one wants to be hurt, but to see it as inevitable and normal. Unless something breaks the pattern. Unless New Zealand really takes on board the message of the current ad campaign – “Family Violence – It’s Not OK”.
I have to admit I felt very proud when these ads against family violence started showing on TV a few weeks ago and there amongst all the famous faces was a Presbyterian minister. It felt good to have someone from my church represented (even if the public wouldn’t know) and giving a strong message that family violence has to stop.
Child abuse gets a lot of media attention, but the wider issue of family violence tends to be less known. However, the correlation between domestic violence and child abuse is clear and high. Violence against children is also violence against women – both now and in the future.
And it’s killing us. The evidence is that one in three women in New Zealand will experience physical or sexual abuse at the hands of a partner in their life-time. A study of police data in 2000 found that 50 percent of homicides were considered to be family violence related. On average, every year 14 women, 10 children and six men die as a result of family violence. Last year the New Zealand police dealt with more than 65,000 calls about family violence – one callout every seven and a half minutes – but they estimate that only 18 percent of family violence incidents come to their attention. Th e annual cost of family violence in New Zealand is at least $1.2 billion.
The social services founded by the Presbyterian Church live this data daily. Presbyterian Support’s child and family services, called Family Works, last year assisted over 3,000 families. For many, family violence was part of the mix of challenges they were facing.
But there is hope. Parenting programmes, counseling and social work support, and special programmes to educate and deal with family violence do shift attitudes and behvaiour, both in individuals and communities.
Change is possible. What it takes is leadership. I am proud of the individuals in our Church who have stood up and said this. Leadership, prophetic voice, caring for the least amongst us; it is what Jesus taught us, in word and by example. So let’s support this campaign, and be one of the voices for change. Family violence - it’s not OK.
Bonnie Robinson is a Presbyterian Minister and member of Somervell Presbyterian Church in Auckland. Bonnie works as the Community Facilitator for Presbyterian Support Northern, assisting Presbyterian Support Northern to build partnerships in the community to meet social need, and speaking out on behalf of the vulnerable people \erves