Committee calls for radical change towards family violence

26 Jun 2014 | Family Violence Death Review Committee

The fourth report from the Family Violence Death Review Committee (FVDRC) calls for a radical change in the way New Zealand responds to its most dangerous and chronic cases of family violence.

The FVDRC urges organisations to take more responsibility for preventing abusers from using violence, rather than expecting the victims of family violence to take action to keep themselves and their children safe.

The FVDRC calls for a stronger collective response to family violence from the police, the justice system, support services and the general public.

Its recommendations include legal changes to protect the victims of family violence, including those who retaliate against their abuser after years of violence.

The FVDRC is an independent committee that advises the Health Quality & Safety Commission on how to reduce the number of family violence deaths and prevent family violence. Its fourth annual report analyses data collected on all family violence homicides that took place over a four-year period, and from 17 in-depth regional reviews of family violence deaths.

From 2009 to 2012, 139 people died from family violence and family violence-related homicides – an average of 35 per year.

Of the 139 deaths, 126 were within the FVDRC’s terms of reference. Of those 126 deaths:

  • 63 adults were killed by partners or ex-partners
  • 37 children died from abuse or neglect
  • 26 adults were killed by family members who were not their partners
  • 40 percent of all those who died lived in the most deprived 20 percent of residential areas
  • 50 percent of intimate partner violence deaths took place during a planned or actual separation
  • 46 percent of children killed were known to Child, Youth and Family
  • Māori children were 5.5 times more likely and Pacific children 4.8 times more likely to die from abuse and neglect than children of other ethnicities
  • Māori adults were 4.9 times more likely and Pacific adults 5.3 times more likely to be responsible for child abuse and neglect deaths than adults of other ethnicities
  • 77 children were present when a parent or sibling was killed
  • 240 surviving children have been affected by exposure to fatal intimate partner violence and child abuse and neglect.

The Chair of the FVDRC, Associate Professor of Law Julia Tolmie, says many New Zealanders have no experience of life without family violence.

"Children are conceived and born into families that already have a dangerous level of abuse," she says.

"If we are to be serious about addressing the unacceptably high incidence and seriousness of family violence in New Zealand, we need to take responsibility for victims’ safety rather than expecting them to keep themselves safe."

The FVDRC’s recommendations include the following:

  • The Campaign for Action on Family Violence extends its focus to encourage people to safely and effectively take action when their friends, family, neighbours or workmates are at risk of being killed in family violence.
  • New Zealand Police strengthens its response to family violence by better managing repeat offenders, better supporting repeat victims, and developing tools to assess the risk of offenders killing their victims.
  • Better support is given to children whose parent, caregiver or sibling, is killed in family violence.
  • Non-fatal strangulation is made a separate crime under the Crimes Act 1961.
  • The test for self-defence is modified to make it more accessible to repeat victims who kill their abusers.
  • A partial defence is introduced for repeat victims of family violence who were not acting in self-defence when they retaliated against their abusers.
  • Judges be given education and training on family violence, and more background information about defendants charged with family violence, including any previous history of family violence convictions.

The Family Violence Death Review Committee’s Fourth Annual Report: January 2013 to December 2013 is available by clicking the link below.

A summary of the report findings is available here.

Women’s Refuge free Crisis line - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843

SHINE Free National Helpline 0508 744 633 (9am - 11pm, 7 days a week)

The Family Violence Information Line 0800 456 450 (9am - 11pm, 7 days a week)

Last updated 25/02/2016