Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

Where There Is a Will There Is a Way. but Is There the Will in New Zealand to Tackle Family Violence? That Is the Question

Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

Where There Is a Will There Is a Way. but Is There the Will in New Zealand to Tackle Family Violence? That Is the Question

Article excerpt

Where there is a will there is a way. But is there the will in New Zealand to tackle family violence? That is the question

Few would disagree that something urgently needs to be done to address New Zealand's dismal record over violence against women and children. Over the years there have been numerous reports, some more general in scope1, while others have been more specifically focused, all calling for urgent change.2 There have been government working parties. There have even been international calls for New Zealand to improve its performance in this area.3 But we still don't seem to be making much headway in either preventing violence against women and children, or in appropriately intervening so that women and children who have been victimised can live safely and autonomously.

Three reports released in 2014 provide yet another opportunity for New Zealanders to take stock of how we're responding to child abuse and domestic violence and to show our commitment to do something about these inter-related problems. Two of these reports have their origins in The Glenn Inquiry, an investigation into child abuse and domestic violence sponsored by Sir Owen Glenn: The People's Report and The People's Blueprint. The third report - The Way Forward by Ruth Herbert and Deborah Mackenzie - also has strong links with the Glenn Inquiry given that its first author, Ruth Herbert, was the former director of the Inquiry.4

In late 2013 the Glenn Inquiry invited New Zealanders to share their experience with domestic violence (DV) and/or child abuse, and their views about service-based interventions into these social problems. Some 500 people responded to this invitation, about a fifth of them were frontline workers, with the rest being either 'victims' or 'perpetrators'. The majority of respondents were women (over 80 percent), and while many were Pakeha, Maori and Pacific peoples made up 25 and 7 percent respectively of those affected by DV and/or child abuse, with 36 percent of frontline workers also being Maori. The voices of Asian people were, however, massively under-represented, with less than 3 percent of those affected by DV &/or child abuse identifying as Asian, and none of the frontline workers identifying as Asian. The majority of respondents talked face-to-face for up to 45 minutes with Glenn Inquiry panel members in one of 16 locations around New Zealand, while others opted to talk by Skype or to send in written submissions by email. Sifting through and sorting this amount of data must have posed a considerable challenge to the authors of The People's Report and The People's Blueprint, Denise Wilson and Melinda Webber.

The People's Report conveys the outcomes of this sifting and sorting process, presenting readers with 160 page report structured in five parts: an account of people's experiences with DV and/or child abuse, including child sexual abuse in Section 1; an indication in service delivery terms of what works well in Section 2, and doesn't work well in Section 3; with Section 4 containing some initial thoughts about how to improve the system, followed in Section 5, by description of action steps.

The intention of the authors as they crafted The People's Report was 'to reflect what people told us' (p. 17), 'to honour their stories and their lives' (p. 20). Put in the language of social science methodology, the researchers sought to give voice to respondents. And we do get some sense of the voices of respondents through the extensive use of quotations, sometimes long quotations, that convey a great deal of the human pain and misery that is the result of being subjected to violence and abuse by someone who is supposed to care for and love you. However, as Hager and Simon-Kumar (2014) point out in their assessment of The People's Report, readers are given few pointers for locating the voices of participants in relation to their specific experiences with family violence: were they adults speaking about childhood abuse or childhood exposure to DV, or adult victims of DV, or perpetrators of either child abuse or DV, or frontline workers working with child abuse or DV, and so on? …

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