Detective Sergeant Darren Pritchard says society is still too accepting of family violence. While the tide is turning, he believes more can be done. He chats to Mark Story:
What's your involvement with White Ribbon?
I was lucky enough to have been nominated as a White Ribbon ambassador by the local manager of the Hastings Women's Refuge. White Ribbon is all about "men standing up against violence towards women".
This occurred after seven years as the Hastings family violence co-ordinator for NZ Police. With 25 years' service, I have seen my fair share of the devastation and consequences of domestic violence.
I took part (and still do) in a number of events in Hawke's Bay which have included concerts, hikoi and supporting the White Ribbon Riders.
In your view, why does this country rate so poorly in family violence statistics?
The introduction of methamphetamine comes to mind, as does synthetic cannabis. Before we go blaming any type of alcohol or drug, shouldn't we look at why society is still so accepting of this type of offending? That to me is the million-dollar question.
Until we have a total mind-shift from society about the acceptability of domestic violence, we won't progress the issue any faster.
If you liken it to drink driving, for example, 20 or so years ago we had a huge tolerance for drinking and driving. In other words, the after-work drinks would happen. The after-match celebrations would take place. We would then hop in the car and happily drive home.
Until we as a society woke up and realised that alcohol and driving was a bad combination. Now we have employer responsibilities or club-sponsored courtesy vans. This has filtered down to the youth also. I regularly talk to our youth who all tell me that peer pressure plays a huge part in drinking and driving culture. They shun their peers if they drink and get behind the wheel of a car.
We need to be aiming for society to take the same steps with domestic violence.
What's the first step a victim should take?
The most important first step to take is to ensure the safety of the victim and that of any children. A phone call to your local Women's Refuge, support services like Dove HB or Te Tai Whenua or the Family Violence team within police, will cost you nothing.
Safety plans are created to ensure everything is put in place that possibly can be. The obtaining of court orders such as domestic protection orders, occupancy orders and parenting orders. Confiding in a good support person like a friend or relative is also a good idea. Start recording things that are happening so that this information is not forgotten and can be used down the track.
Do you think the scourge is getting worse or better in New Zealand?
I have talked about a shift in the acceptance of this topic. However, I can say that I believe the wheels are turning towards this end goal. By that I mean the amount of reports of domestic violence are increasing.
That does not mean the amount of violence has, it means the acceptability hasn't. We as police receive a lot more calls from concerned family members, neighbours and bystanders. That is a good thing because if we don't know about the situation we can't start to fix it.
What's the biggest myth about family violence?
That alcohol causes violence. People cause violence. If it did, wouldn't everyone that drunk alcohol become violent? What we do see as police is the level of violence increases from a person that chooses to use violence when they mix it with the alcohol.
Also a major myth is that I hear people say that it is not OK to get angry about stuff. It is OK. It's a normal human emotion we all have. It's how we deal with our anger that affects others.