Open letter to men of NZ about violence on children

By Heather McCracken

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Children's Commissioner Russell Wills has written an open letter to the men of New Zealand about the impact of violence on children.

The letter, titled: "To the men of New Zealand whose violent behaviour is damaging their children", says children suffer major ongoing problems as a result of violence at home.

The letter has been released to mark White Ribbon Day today, which asks men to pledge not to commit, condone or remain silent about violence towards women.

Children's Commissioner Russell Wills. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Children's Commissioner Russell Wills. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Dr Wills' letter says children who are victims of violence are more likely to be violent themselves, and more likely to have mental health, drug and alcohol and physical problems.

"As a pediatrician - I've seen your kids in my clinic. Kids like the four-year-old girl with a developmental age of two. And like the little boy who wasn't learning at school; not because of ADHD (like everyone thought) but because he was terrified that when he got home mum would be hurt or dead."

Dr Wills goes on to say he's seen men change their lives because they love their kids and their kids' mum.

"It's not too late. I'm asking you to step up and get help right now. I know this is not easy but take a positive step for the sake of your kids."

He urges men to talk to someone they trust about their behaviour, and ask for help.

Marches and events are being held around the country today to mark White Ribbon Day, including parades in Manukau and Waitakere this afternoon.

Police Commissioner Peter Marshall said New Zealand as a country was waking up to the heavy toll family violence takes on communities.

"Police are only one agency working within the Family Violence area, and success in this sector will be the result of a collective effort across a number of groups."

He said last year police recorded one family violence investigation every six minutes, or about 240 per day.

"We see increases in recorded family violence as a positive indicator of an increased awareness of and intolerance to family violence," he said.

"What we are starting to see is New Zealanders engaging with this issue, and giving voice to the change in attitude through events such as White Ribbon."

Russell Wills' letter:

To those it concerns,

Do your children see you get angry and shout? Have they watched you lash out at their mum? Do they cower in the corner when you enter a room? Are they frightened of you?

It doesn't have to be like this for your children. It shouldn't be like this.

When you are violent it always affects your kids. It changes their development and it changes how well they'll do in life. When they grow up they are more likely to be violent themselves, or be victims of violence. They are more likely to have major mental health problems, drug and alcohol problems and physical problems.

As a pediatrician - I've seen your kids in my clinic. Kids like the four-year-old girl with a developmental age of two. And like the little boy who wasn't learning at school; not because of ADHD (like everyone thought) but because he was terrified that when he got home mum would be hurt or dead.

Your kids still love you but they want you to change. I think you love your kids too. I think you want your kids' lives to be better than yours. I've seen dads turn their lives around because they love their kids and they love their kids' mum. You can too.

It's not too late. I'm asking you to step up and get help right now. I know this is not easy but take a positive step for the sake of your kids.

You could start by taking the White Ribbon pledge to promise to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence towards women. You could talk to someone you trust about your behaviour and ask for help. You could call the Family Violence Information Line on 0800 456 450.

Be the kind of dad your kids would love you to be. They want you to walk into a room and give them a cuddle, or play with them or talk about their day. They want to be happy to see you.

Most men in New Zealand are not violent. Become one of them.

Yours Sincerely

Dr Russell Wills

- APNZ

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