NZ domestic violence bill

Domestic violence services in New Zealand are receiving over $200 million with record spike of assault cases in lockdown

Photo by Aliyah Jamous on Unsplash.

— 2 minute read — By Camilla Foster

New Zealand currently has one of the highest rates of sexual and domestic violence in the developed world, with the police responding to an incident every 4 minutes. This national crisis has been estimated to cost the country between $4.1bn- $7bn every year.

Within the current global climate of the pandemic, New Zealand has seen a 20% increase of calls to the police and support agencies regarding family harm incidents. Strangulations and beatings have become a ‘common place’ in 2020 within the country.

These figures are just the tip of the iceberg as an estimated 76% of family violence incidents are not reported to the police. Many victims have difficulty seeking help or leaving home.

Violent dynamics within households, in conjunction with the physical restrictions of lockdown, has heightened victim’s experience of physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse. The pandemic has drastically limited the ability for those suffering to move into safe spaces. Not only have reported cases of abuse increased this year, but so has the brutality of the attacks and severity of the injuries. 

Domestic violence has been a widespread issue in New Zealand that has been continually on the rise. Women’s right campaigners claim sexism, substance abuse and poverty are influential factors that combined make domestic violence so nationally prevalent.

The New Zealand government have stated that tackling domestic violence has become a big priority for legislation. Jan Logie, the under-secretary for domestic and sexual violence issues, said front line services will receive $202 million over 4 years to aid essential operations as the intense pressure of the pandemic takes a toll on households nationwide.

The bulk of money will go towards supporting victims of family violence ($140m), victims of elder abuse ($25m) and victims of non- fatal strangulation ($19m). The rest will be directed towards rehabilitating the perpetrators. A focus of rehabilitation is an expensive educational process but is essential in diminishing the rising domestic violence rates, as it looks deep into the root of the issue. Additional support will be made available for victims of non-fatal strangulation which has been made a separate crime in New Zealand.

Prior to this valuable investment, the government passed the Family Violence Act and the Family Violence (Amendments) Act in 2018. They attempted to provide a modern and enabling framework to effectively address family violence. Legislation was passed that granted victims of domestic violence 10 days paid leave to allow sufficient time to leave their partners, find new homes, and protect themselves and their children. 

This important investment into domestic violence support agencies shows that the government are beginning to take serious steps in tackling this detrimental social issue. The funding will provide vital support to the hundreds of victims who are suffering in the already intense social climate of the pandemic. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated that “we have to change the way we confront domestic violence – not just through our services but also through the way we seek to address domestic violence as a nation, and the way we encourage conversation and an entire culture change”.