A new family violence advocacy group say they have been "inundated" by Kiwi women wanting to speak out about how the justice system is "failing" them.

And, they say the situation in New Zealand is much worse than they initially thought - particularly in the Family Court arena.

The Backbone Collective launched earlier this year and is an independent body aiming to take action against domestic and sexual violence towards women.

Family violence victims given 'new voice' by survivor-founded NGO


The collective was formed by a national coalition of survivors of violence and will also act as a Family Court watchdog.

They aim to examine the present response system through the eyes of women who have experienced violence and abuse and publish regular watchdog reports.

Their first report was released last week and contained a list of questions their members - women who have survived family violence - wanted answered by authorities.

The questions relate to "widespread failures" the women are experiencing in the Family Court.

"The questions these 10 members have asked, together with the many detailed stories women have shared with us in the past month, leave us in little doubt that the Family Court is currently a dangerous place for women and children," said Backbone co-founder Deb Mackenzie.

"We have heard from some women that they have been advised by their lawyers not to leave their abusive partner because the Family Court will force their children into care arrangements with him upon separation. So, women stay in an unsafe home to protect their children.

"Women who have left the abuser and been through the Family Court tell us they have ended up with care arrangements that put their children in greater risk.

"The stories we have been told are extremely disturbing."


Mackenzie said feedback from Backbone members "shine a light on the dysfunction that is happening in the Family Court".

"The dangers, the misunderstandings, the misinformed decision-making, and the mirroring of the abuse by those in power," she said.

"These questions require immediate responses."

The first report released by the Collective claims a number of main findings around the Family Court including shortfalls in legislation, concerns over the quality of judges, a lack of monitoring of the system and the revictimisation of women and children.

"This report on the Family Court is the first of many reports that we will be releasing publicly to make sure we lift the lid on what is going on in the system that is supposed to be keeping them and their children safe and helping them rebuild their lives," said Collective co-founder Ruth Herbert.

She said more than 400 women had registered with the Collective since it launched and they had already provided insightful feedback.

"Over and over again they are telling us horrific stories of how they and their children were put in worse danger by decisions being made in the court.

"It is far worse than we ever imagined before we started the Backbone. "

Herbert said she expected those in authority to respond to the women's questions and concerns.
"We will be tracking and releasing their responses," she said.

"It is everybody's business when women and children are put in danger."

To read the Backbone Collective's full watchdog report click here