SPEECH TO NATIONAL COUNCIL OF WOMEN 10 AUGUST 2015
Kia ora koutou. Talofa lava. Malo e leilei. Thanks for inviting me to speak. I’m going to talk about three topics relating to male intimate partner violence against women.
The first is Terrorism and male intimate partner violence.
1 TERRORISM AND MALE INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
In Australia, a poll last month found 74 per cent of Australians believed domestic violence was as much – or more of - a threat than terrorism.
We all know that, since 9/11, the Western World has spent billions of dollars in the “War on Terror.” Actions taken to try and prevent future attacks have impacted on every citizen.
But why don’t we do the same - or more - to eradicate domestic violence ? And why don’t we call male intimate partner violence against women “terrorism” ?
In every country on the planet, there is an epidemic of violence against women by men – both domestic violence and sexual violence
In the United Kingdom, police receive one domestic violence call every minute – 1300 every day, or 570,000 a year. Two women a week are killed in domestic violence tragedies in Britain.
In Australia, one woman a week is killed by an intimate partner.
In the United States, between 2001 and 2012, 6488 American troops were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the same period, 11,766 women were killed by their partners – almost twice as many as the number of troops killed. Three American women are killed every day by their partners. 38 million American women experience violence from their partners in their lifetimes. Women with disabilities are 40 per cent more likely to experience intimate partner violence. Black women are 35 per cent more likely than white women, to be subjected to intimate partner violence.
In 2014, two people died as a result of terrorism in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. In the same year, more than 1200 women were killed by their partners in those three countries.
More women have been killed by men in Australia since the start of 2014 than all the Australians killed by terrorism in the past 115 years.
Why don’t we call this global epidemic “terrorism ?” And why don’t we apply as much time and resources to eradicating it, as we spend on combating what we commonly call “terrorism ?”
Is it because, despite all the reports and policies and speeches, in recent decades, we still think domestic violence is something hidden away at home – that really it’s an individual problem, rather than a national and international one ?
In Australia, Australian of the Year and anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty questions why hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on fighting “terrorism,” yet women who fear for their safety are being turned away from help in droves because services are so under-resourced.
If we started calling male intimate partner violence against women “terrorism,” would that make us treat it more seriously ?
2 PROPOSALS FROM GOVERNMENT FOR TACKLING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
My second topic is the Government’s plans to overhaul domestic violence laws.
Last Wednesday, Justice Minister Amy Adams unveiled proposals for improving the Government’s response to domestic violence by undertaking a comprehensive review of laws. Shockingly, the paper she released revealed that New Zealand has the highest reported rate of intimate partner violence, in the developed world. In 2014, more than 100,000 cases of domestic violence were reported to police. That’s around one every five minutes, every day, all year. Police issue 36 Police Safety Orders a day, or more than 13,000 a year.
In July 2014, the Government announced a package of measures to help agencies work together on a co-ordinated system, for dealing with family violence. But I was very disappointed that the funding provided was $9.4 million over 4 years. By contrast, the Government gave $36 million to the 2013 America’s Cup. It spent over $300 million on the 2011 Rugby World Cup. And Michael Hill’s Queenstown Golf Tournament has received several million dollars in government funding.
But, going back to last week’s announcement. It was heartening that Ms Adams said combating family violence was her top priority. The minister said that, when it was passed in 1995, the Domestic Violence Act was world-leading. It set out a clear response to family violence and distinguished it from other forms of crimes. But she said that it was now time for a rethink.
I’m just going to run through some of the key suggestions in the discussion document, and my responses to them. Basically, there are six points -
If you want to make a submission on these proposals, you have until 18 September to do so.
I also want to mention that, in July, the Minister asked the Law Commission to research two family violence issues. The first of these was whether non-fatal strangulation should be a separate crime. I support that.
Manual strangulation has only recently been understood as one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence, as unconsciousness can occur within seconds, and death within minutes. Strangulation accounts for 10 per cent of violent deaths in the United States, with six female victims to every male. The Family Violence Death Review Committee found that, in New Zealand, 71 per cent of the regional reviews it conducted, had strangulation histories.
However, such assaults leave few physical symptoms and are often downplayed by victims, the police and the courts. One example of this is calling it “choking” instead of “strangulation.” We should follow American states, and introduce an offence of non-fatal strangulation. We should adopt the wording used in the Texas and Idaho laws.
The second issue Amy Adams asked the Law Commission to consider, is how the law responds to victims of family violence who kill the perpetrators. This is an issue we were debating and researching 15 or 20 years ago, but haven’t spoken about much in recent years. It takes in battered women’s syndrome. It will be good to see recent research about this, and examine how the legal system’s response can be improved when victims act violently towards perpetrators.
I believe a key issue in our response to male intimate partner violence is resources. No government has provided anything like enough resources to eradicate domestic violence. In particular, I believe there need to be massive resources provided to enable women and children to permanently escape domestic violence. In many cases, they can’t do this for financial reasons.
There was no commitment to additional resources with Amy Adams’s announcements last week. But Prime Minister John Key did say last Monday that more resources could be made available - though without actually committing himself.
So that’s a little of what the Government is proposing in relation to domestic violence.
Last Friday, an all-day hui was held in Wellington to discuss key goals for action against domestic and sexual violence. It was called “In it together” and was organised by Green MP Jan Logie. It brought together sector representatives and some politicians. The day was very valuable, and thanks to Jan for organising it. She and the other organisers did a great job in ensuring strong representation of Maori and disability advocates. It was also pleasing that Labour’s Kelvin Davis attended. We need MPs to adopt a cross-party approach.
We divided into four groups to discuss key actions on domestic violence; sexual violence; child abuse; and treatment for offenders. Representatives from each of the four streams are now compiling the proposals into one document to be forwarded to the Government.
3 MEN NEED TO ACT OR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE WILL NEVER END
My last topic is a call for men to take action against domestic violence.
All the actions I’ve outlined above from government, and much of what’s being done by NGOs, is ambulance-at-the-bottom-of- the-cliff. It focuses on better responses to violence against women AFTER it’s happened.
But, sadly, no country in the world has solved the problem of how to actually prevent it. Domestic violence is an issue in very nation in the world. Men have been perpetrating it against women for thousands of years and no effective means of halting it completely, has been found, anywhere.
There has actually been a giant con perpetrated on women. Not only are we the victims of domestic violence. But we have also been persuaded that domestic violence is a “women’s issue.” In Aotearoa and all over the world, millions of women have spent decades working either unpaid, or for low pay to end domestic violence. By contrast, there are very few men working in this field.
Why is this ? Men are the perpetrators, and domestic violence is therefore a man’s problem, not a women’s problem.
Until men step up and take action to stop it, domestic violence will never end.
And we need to start asking men “Why don’t you stop beating, raping and killing women ?” Instead of asking women “Why don’t you leave ?”
We need men to take immediate and comprehensive steps to abolish domestic violence. Men need to -