REON SUDDABY AND NZPA
On average Hawke's Bay police are being called to three incidents of domestic violence a day, even as they urge people to seek help for what a judge has described as an "indictment on society".
Police attended 1128 incidents of domestic violence in Hastings, Havelock North and Flaxmere in the year to July 1, 2005. From those, 217 arrests were made.
In the Napier area, police say they averaged 80 or 90 callouts a month, with the figure sometimes blowing out to 120.
Nationally, police attended 24,700 callouts to domestic violence in 2002-2003. In 2004-2005 the figure jumped to 30,692.
During December 2005 and January 2006, police attended nearly 11,000 family violence incidents, in which 6000 children individually witnessed that violence.
In the same period, Child Youth and Family (CYF) received around 10,000 reports of suspected child abuse.
Hastings police family violence co-ordinator Sergeant Bob Gordon said the area was "pretty bad" for domestic violence, but police were mindful they only had a certain percentage of incidents reported to them.
Mr Gordon said it was estimated that nationally only 18 percent of domestic violence incidents were reported to police.
While the local situation was worrying, Mr Gordon said he had noticed the message was getting through to people about reporting domestic violence.
Although police were dealing with more incidents, Mr Gordon said that could be because more people were calling the police.
More neighbours were ringing police if they thought violence was taking place next door.
Mr Gordon was concerned about the impact on children who witnessed violence in the home.
"If they grow up in a violent home situation ...
those kids grow up to think that's quite normal behaviour."
There were many reasons for domestic violence. For some families it was an ingrained "norm". In other cases the pressures of daily life or drugs and alcohol played a part, Mr Gordon said.
In some cases domestic violence was a starting point for some people on the road to more serious offending.
"You can see some develop and they graduate and graduate," Mr Gordon said.
Mr Gordon said if even a tenth of the resources put into reducing the road toll were put into domestic violence, police could make a real impact. However he said it was hard to monitor.
"It's a very hard one to police, it's behind closed doors. We can't sit in people's living rooms."
Mr Gordon said education was still the main way of combating domestic violence, and people involved needed to make the most of the resources available to them, such as the DOVE programmes and Women's Refuge.
Other organisations that could help included Strengthening Families, Victim Support, and CYFS.
Napier police Senior Sergeant Tony Dewhirst said the level of offending in the area appeared to have stayed fairly steady for the past few years.
As in Hastings, alcohol and drugs played a large part in domestic violence.
"There's no doubt a lot of these incidents are fuelled by alcohol and drugs," Mr Dewhirst said.
Methamphetamine was also becoming a problem.
Mr Dewhirst said it was important to stop domestic violence before it led to more serious offending.