Domestic violence and protection orders – updated.

At the end of last year I spoke at a rally in remembrance of two migrant women who were murdered in Wellington while having protection orders in place. While standing in front of the crowd I was recalling all the similar rallies I had been to over the years remembering all the women and children we have lost through domestic violence and all those who have survived and endured such hardship/torture. It’s not that I believe domestic violence is inevitable. I absolutely don’t.

It is gutting to start the year with the death of two children being murdered by their father while protection orders were in place.

At one time we had a world leading justice system with a good model of support and rehabilitation based on the very successful Duluth model but slowly over time it seems the structures haven’t been reviewed and have actually been eroded/undermined.

This government has shifted the focus from domestic violence to vulnerable children despite domestic violence being one of the most significant risks for children in NZ.

Domestic Violence was not mentioned once in the white paper, despite a large number of submissions raising this issue. There is nothing in the legislation to progress our response to Domestic Violence. In fact it may well move resources away from domestic violence.

The police have changed their reporting measures and response model relating to domestic violence without consulting other departments including women’s affairs who hold the policy expertise within government.

There is also a problem with the protection orders and reporting breaches. Police should, be acting on and arresting men for ALL breaches no matter how small but the courts are throwing these back. I was told of this happening in the courts in Wellington and the police being reprimanded for bringing something so trivial to court. So the result is the police aren’t acting on all breaches only those that they assess serious enough for the courts to act on.

The welfare reforms also impact on women’s ability to leave violent relationships. I heard just recently of a woman in a violent relationship looking at the entitlements and work testing obligations on the Work and Income website and then talking to an advocate about the impossibility of managing and looking after her children if she left. There is of course a work test exemption for victims but people aren’t informed about this and very few women manage to access it.

Further the government has gutted the family court protections. In the law changes last year they’ve reduced counselling and removed the Bristol clause which was put into law in response to the murder of children by their father who had been given custody of them despite a history of domestic violence.
The government also brought in fees for accessing the family court. Increasingly also decisions being made by the judges have moved away from the intent of the legislation and women are being held responsible for ensuring shared parenting even when a protection order might be in place and some women are having problems accessing supervision for their partner’s access.

Progressive cuts to legal aid mean that women are now often putting themselves into financial hardship to get these protection orders. I was told recently of a woman who had to pay $20,000 to get a protection order. I met another woman, while I was out campaigning, who told me she’d had to put a lien on her house to get protection orders.

It is completely unacceptable that a woman should have to pay thousands of dollars to secure a document that will provide a modicum of protection for herself and her children.

So where is the monitoring and leadership on this issue? The taskforce on family violence is a shell of its former self. The papers I got under OIA last year showed they were still, after 9 years, discussing definitions and trying to ascertain the resources available around the country.That is surely a reflection of political priorities.

We need to rethink how the system, including protection orders is working.

Domestic Violence is preventable. Abusers aren’t born abusers and with the right approach we can turn things around BUT this government is taking us in the wrong direction.

6 Comments Posted

  1. There are many reasons to become abusers. Still, whatever it is any violent is not correct and the government is the only responsible party to protect them. Family should be the safest place to be, but where would we go when family is not safe anymore?

  2. If I was to err in the policing or granting of protection orders I know what type of error I could live with. The errors of providing wrongly or not providing wrongly are not the same. It is one of the reasons capital punishment is not needed or wanted.

  3. You must also be aware that while some use protection orders for genuine reasons (this case being a prime and tragic example), for other individuals they are just another tool in the kit of a person who wants to make life more difficult for an unwanted ex.

  4. I agree with all you say. Citizens Advice Bureaux were once able to put these women in touch with Family court easily. Now when we phone on their behalf we are informed ‘tell them to find a solicitor’. Protection orders were once easily obtained as you say, this is no longer the way. The onus seems to be on payment for assistance when woman is threatened. This harks back to fifty years ago when the Police would not go to a Domestic call out. Perhaps the Green Party could publicise what is happening more clearly. The public need to be aware that vulnerable young women and their infants are now in a position where the bullying partner is able to get away with murder.

  5. You must also be aware that while some use protection orders for genuine reasons (this case being a prime and tragic example), for other individuals they are just another tool in the kit of a person who wants to make life more difficult for an unwanted ex. Perhaps the abuse of protection orders is a factor in police and court’s failure to properly enforce them?

  6. While not related to abusers and how abuse can be prevented (better behaviour from abusers!) and responses from police etc I have recently been given a result of a High Court case about entitlement or not to DPB.
    The learned judge said not, as was with a “partner” despite police records saying domestic violence from the alleged partner existed – but because this was not for the precise time she was getting the DPB it did not count. I am looking at an appeal as this potentially allows Paula’s hounds a field day and ignores battered woman’s syndrome and previous court of Appeal decisions about DPB entitglement.

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