Domestic and Sexual Violence

Domestic and sexual violence are gendered crimes, which damage the health of women and their families. Numerous studies and submissions have been made to government detailing research and strategies to combat both domestic and sexual violence in Aotearoa New Zealand. These focus on protecting both women and children from these crimes and suggest intersectoral connections including changes to policing, the family court system and support services must be developed.

Domestic and sexual violence- gendered crimes

Violence towards women and children are gendered crimes with serious health effects that can be lifelong. Violence is one of the most significant challenges to the health of women and girls. The prevalence of gendered violence is supported by current cultural norms, gender inequalities and institutionalised misogyny. It is exacerbated by various factors including economic inequality, poverty, high crime levels, alcohol and drug abuse, sexist portrayal of women and girls in various forms of media, poor victim support from both the police and the judiciary and the underfunding of support services. The impact of sexual and domestic violence on survivors, families and communities is serious and long-term with costs to both individuals and society. In 2003 a New Zealand Treasury report estimated the economic costs to the New Zealand economy at $1.2 billion each year.

Sexual violence:

The World Health Organisation describes sexual violence as any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, sexual harassment, or act directed against a person’s sexuality, using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting including but not limited to home or work. Sexual violence can include, rape, the threat of rape, attempted rape, sexual harassment, sexual coercion and sexual contact with force.Sexual violence can be perpetrated by, or against, anyone but overwhelmingly the sexual assault of adults is perpetrated by men against women. There is no completely accurate data available regarding sexual violence, in Aotearoa New Zealand and there are significant anomalies both in the recording and defining of sexual violence and the fact that violence and sexual violence in particular is underreported.

Family or domestic violence

In the last decade discussion has shifted from domestic violence to family violence, which includes violence against children and elder abuse. Family violence includes abuse against any person who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the abuser including carers of children, disabled or older people. It includes siblings, children or parents and violence by an intimate partner against the other partner. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological/emotional abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, damage to property and threats of physical or sexual abuse.

The Family Court

The 2012 WHA Cartwright seminar, titled ‘Silent injustice: Women’s experiences of the Family Court’, explored women’s experiences of negotiating relationship separation and care of children within the Family Court. Recent New Zealand research has highlighted the difficulties women currently face with negotiating care and contact arrangements for their children through New Zealand’s family law system. Women’s experiences of the Family Court system suggest the systemic serving of fathers’ interests over mothers’ ability to care for and protect their children, are compounded when women are separating from violent relationships.

Womens Health Action supports:

  • Proper funding for specialist sexual violence including 24 hour crisis and phone and ongoing support services and training for sector workers along with simplified contracting and reporting arrangements and sustained funding arrangements ( see submission on .
  • Services that reflect the diversity of our communities including specialist services for Māori and for minority groups  and health promotion messages that promote respect
  • Making significant changes to intersecting services such as the police and justice department, including changes to court processes, the training of judges and lawyers and the police.
  • Legislation which controls the use of social and other media to promote violence and sexual violence
  • Engagement of the mass media in countering exploitative and sexist depictions of women

References and Resources

New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse. The New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse is your national centre for research and information on family and whānau violence in Aotearoa New Zealand.Kaupapa Māori wellbeing framework: The basis for whānau violence prevention and interventionYou, Me, Us – Our People, Our Relationships is an initiative by Shine, OUTLINE NZ and Rainbow Youth. Posters and a booklet with information about creating healthy relationships, identifying unhealthy relationships and ways to get help and get out as wellRoper, T. and Thompson, A, (2006), Estimating the costs of crime in New Zealand in 2003/04, New Zealand Treasury Working Paper 06/04.Ministry of Justice, 2010. The New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey: 2009, pg 45. “This isn’t love… this is control”. Family Planning Association New Zealand (FPA) has a resource to “help young people understand the danger signs of relationship abuse, and give them information about where to go to get help if they are in a violent relationship”.

Useful links

UK to criminalise coercive, controlling and psychological abuse  2015. The UK Home Office has announced a new domestic violence law will be introduced.New resource on engaging key sectors to prevent violence – 2015. A new resource from the Prevention Institute (US) offers support for.HeforShe solidarity movement for gender equality – 2015. The UN Women is working to build a solidarity movement for gender equality…Sex and respect: Works with youth to promote respectful relating.

Support services

Womens refuge NZ If you are living in fear in your relationship or in your family, or know someone who is, there are so many ways we can help you right now. We warmly welcome all women of New Zealand and their children to our free advice, emergency accommodation and confidential advocacy services provided by women.If you need help:  Call 111 or Women’s Refuge 0800 733 843. Or go online.Family Violence Networks
- information about Family Violence Networks, including contact details for networks around the countryAge Concern including information about elder abuse and links to support.Rainbow Youth(09) 376 4155 SHINE Shine wants to make sure that anyone experiencing domestic abuse in New Zealand has a place to turn and someone to talk to. The free National Helpline can provide support and information for you if you are living with abuse–whether you are female or male, or if you are worried about a friend, family member, colleague, or a child.Free National Helpline 0508-744-633       7 days/week, 9am-11pmWaitakere anti violence essential services (WAVES).YouthlineTe Ohaakii a Hine – National Network Ending Sexual Violence Together Women’s self-defense network