Media release, Monday 4 May, 2020

A wero has been laid at the feet of the government to address underfunding, systemic racism, sexism and intergenerational trauma in order to effectively address family violence in this country in a damning report from the Family Violence Death Review Committee.

This challenge in the Men Who Use Violence report is fully supported by National Network of Family Violence Services NZ, which applauds its ‘whole of person’ perpetrator narrative in addressing family violence in New Zealand.

Merran Lawler, Kaiarahi (General Manager) of NNFVS (Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga) says this means that society, government and the media should now focus on the systems and processes that create perpetrators.

“It requires us to put the perpetrator at the centre of the mahi, rather than as the unnamed external cause of the problem.”

Perpetrators are also victims – hurt people hurt people
Working with some of the country’s most high-risk perpetrators of violence is Takarua Tawera, senior clinician and cultural specialist at Dunedin’s Moana House and also the chair of NNFVS. 

Almost all the men entering their service are victims themselves and have coexisting conditions such as addiction, mental health issues, poor education and socialisation skills, long offending and imprisonments, and other traumatic experiences. Treating them is like opening Pandora’s box, he says.

“There’s a lot more there than just the behaviour we are initially seeing. Unresolved trauma and underlying conditions do not excuse violence but leaving them unaddressed does nothing to solve the epidemic of family violence in this country. ”

Decolonisation and deconstructing systemic racism in institutions are key to making lasting ongoing improvements to our damning family violence record, as the report has addressed strongly. However, this is an “old song” that family violence specialists have been singing for many years. It’s now time for the government to pick up their tools and start making the changes they need to, Mr Tawera says.

“There are enough voices now saying that racism, colonisation and generational violence exists. There will be those who will say we might know that, but they still can’t see it under their noses. If the system takes responsibility, it will trickle down into the community.”

More resources needed for frontline mahi
The report also acknowledges that the work being done to address family violence with perpetrators in communities is underfunded, not fit to address complex, individual and ongoing needs and is not evaluated. 

“A 20-week programme is a very blunt tool in attempting to address the underlying factors which contribute to a man thinking that violence is an okay way of walking in the world. We are always fearful that after 20 weeks, we  wish them well knowing that after 10 minutes in the real world, they have a high probability of relapsing without ongoing support and encouragement. We want to be able to remain connected with them, their families and whānau to ensure their safe journey. But successive  governments have shown disinterest in funding that, as they have been with funding evaluations of the programmes we run. We welcome appropriate funding for evaluations to be undertaken.”

Frontline workers already at cutting edge of treatment
The report also promoted the importance of trauma-informed practices, which are already embraced by many members of the 35-strong NNFVS network.

“It’s important to acknowledge our workers at the frontline working with those perpetrators every day and the way they have engaged and really embraced cutting edge thinking and approaches. There are *entire agencies in our network that operate from a trauma-informed paradigm and appreciate the importance of tailoring programmes to suit the needs and circumstances of the individual.”