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Domestic violence cases at 'horrendous' levels

Published: 8:00AM Sunday November 25, 2012 Source: Fairfax

Prime Minister John Key says the number of domestic violence cases in New Zealand is "unacceptable".

Police have investigated more than 77,500 domestic violence cases in the past 20 months, launching inquiries at a rate equal to five incidents every hour, new figures show.

Of cases investigated between January 2011 and October 2012, 43,500 involved family members being injured and 2235 involved sexual assault, figures provided from police to Labour under the Official Information Act show.

Police annual reports show a 50% rise in people killed in domestic violence incidents over the past three years. In 2008, 18 people were killed while the figure climbed to 27 last year.

Police did not publish comparative data for 2009 or 2010.

The Prime Minister says "people should be able to be safe in their home" and it's a very serious issue for the country.

"It is a really serious question when you start saying that 89,000-90,000 homes are visited every year because there's a domestic violence," Key told TVNZ's Breakfast this morning.

The Government is aiming to cut violent crime by 20% and reoffending by 25% by 2017.

Key said the Government will promote anti domestic violence through campaigns and will encourage people to report incidents. He said the Alcohol Reform Bill could help reduce the number of cases as alcohol is often a factor in domestic violence.

"Often what had happened in the past was that if you had a domestic situation - say the husband was drunk and looked like he was going to be abusive to his wife or the children - the police had to go through quite a process to get a restraining order. We changed the law to allow that to be a much more rapid fast process so it could happen instantly."

Women's Affairs Minister Jo Goodhew said yesterday that funding for domestic violence prevention is up to the relevant ministries running programmes.

"Beyond this, everyone in the community has a role to play in keeping women safe," Goodhew said.

"It is essential that everyone speaks out and takes action if they know that violence is occurring."

'Horrendous'

Labour's women's affairs spokeswoman Sue Moroney described the rate of family violence as "horrendous".

Although rising statistics have been attributed to increased reporting of domestic violence in the past, Moroney says preventative measures are not working if more people are being killed.

"You can probably make an assessment that family violence is on the increase as well as reported incidents," she said.

The Ministry of Social Development spent $3.35 million on its wider campaign for action on family violence in the 2008-09 year but that fell to $1.49m in 2011-12.

Funding for television advertising fell from $1.3m in 2009-2010 to $500,000 this financial year.

Moroney said despite the statistics "blowing out", the Government was spending less.

She said Goodhew was "clearly failing" because one of the three priorities of her ministry was to ensure women are safe.

It was also up to Goodhew to fight to retain funding levels.

"The minister is sitting on the sideline and watching this all unfold in front of her," Moroney said.

Goodhew responded by saying she was concerned about any violence against women but the figures obtained by Labour related to all family violence deaths, and the number of women killed by their partners had remained relatively stable.

Six women were killed in 2008, rising to 14 in 2009 and falling to nine last year.

Sexual violence

The Green Party says the Government needs to commit adequate funding to sexual abuse support services.

The Green Party says it contacted all of the main sexual violence support services throughout New Zealand, and of the 22 respondents, 36% reported that they were having to cut staff because of reduced funding.
 
"The size of the problem clearly indicates sector funding is being systemically eroded. We cannot rely on individual communities or agencies to be able to fundraise their way out of this situation, and neither should we," said Logie.
 
"The lack of action from the National Government is leaving volunteers to pick up the slack and putting people at risk due to a lack of services and skills.
 
"It's unacceptable that a third of our already overstretched services are having to lay off staff when there is no sign of demand abating, and it is in fact increasing."

Domestic violence roll of shame

Domestic violence deaths: 2008 - 18

2009 - not recorded

2010 - not recorded

2011 - 27

Police domestic violence investigations since January 2011:

Homicide or attempted murder 67

Injury 43,500

Abductions or harassment 10,182

Sexual assault 2235

Total 77,521

-With Fairfax

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