New Zealand has the worst rate of family and intimate partner violence in the world. A shocking 80 per cent of incidents go unreported - so what we know of family violence in our community is barely the tip of the iceberg. Today is the final day of We're Better Than This, a week-long series on family violence. Our goal is to raise awareness, educate, and give an insight into the victims and perpetrators.Today we look at solutions - what can we do to fix this problem.

Family violence is the biggest crime type in New Zealand and costs us between $4 billion and $7 billion each year. Our front line police spend more than 40 per cent of their time responding to family violence incidents and every few minutes someone calls a crisis line asking for help.

Police attended 105,000 family violence incidents last year, and that's only the 20 or so per cent that were reported.

Family violence is an epidemic in New Zealand. So what is the solution?

There is no easy answer to that question. There is no silver bullet, quick fix, single piece of legislation or police action that can tackle the problem.


Whatever we do will take time - experts suggest up to 20 years - and a lot of hard work until we see a real difference.

"We've got to be really bold, we have to acknowledge the truths of this and be brave. We have to try new things. The harsh reality is that we are already getting things wrong and people are getting hurt. We can do better," said Superintendent Tusha Penny, national crime prevention manager for the police.

"Our challenge is to make people as safe in their homes as they are on the street. All New Zealanders have a fundamental right to live in their homes and be safe.

"Family violence is predictable, it's stoppable. We can make a difference. There are groups of people doing really good stuff, but there is no national framework. We have a pile of information, but we don't know what to do with it."

The "good stuff" includes, but is not limited to, changes to the way police responded to and dealt with family violence; a government review and overhaul of relevant legislation; a proposal to new family violence-specific offences and the introduction of the Integrated Safety Response model, which allows government and NGOs to respond collectively.

Part of the ISR model is an "intensive case management process" for high-risk cases meaning police and agencies can work on the same page to respond to situations.

"I really believe if we get this right, we are on the cusp of a huge transformation," Ms Penny told NZME. "If we miss this opportunity, it's a big deal. There's no silver bullet, this is a 10- to 20-year commitment. We've got to commit to making a long-term change and changing the entire landscape around family violence."

There are countless ideas, initiatives and campaigns across New Zealand from community to government level aimed at family violence reduction and prevention - too many to list.

But they all follow the same main themes - improving legislation and response, educating and raising awareness of the issue and the warning signs, promoting equality and healthy relationships and properly funding support agencies.

Strengthening NZ's legislative response

In 2014 the Prime Minister announced a package of initiatives aimed at reducing family violence. Part of that was a review of family violence legislation and a stock take of all current family violence systems and services.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said while much had been done over "many years" to address the situation, family violence "remains one of New Zealand's most significant social issues".

"Clearly something isn't working. A single action or change won't make this problem go away ... we can't legislate our way out of this," she said.

A comprehensive "rethink" of family violence was crucial.

"I don't claim to have all the answers but if we aren't prepared to acknowledge and get people at least talking about it we're not going to resolve anything. There are a number of things we should do better and a number of things we should try. Carrying on as we are is not ok," she said.

"Change won't happen quickly. We need to look at every aspect of what we do ... this is a journey of many many years. There isn't a simple one-way train to the solution.

"Success might see the numbers getting worse for a while ... We might see more numbers - but we will hopefully see less harm at the same time."

Thinking long-term was key.

"It's a journey of 1000 steps. It's important to manage expectations. A lot of small things need to change for big changes to happen".

Janet Fanslow from the Family Violence Clearing House, the national centre for research and information on the issue, said: "To make a difference it's actually going to have to be sufficiently resourced and it's also going to have to be sustained."

"The devil is in the detail and we need to ensure we are investing sufficiently to do this well."

Mrs Adams said trying new things was the biggest step.

"Some of these changes will work and some might not - but what we're not going to do is sit back and let this keep happening," she said.

Women's Refuge chief executive Dr Ang Jury agreed.

"We can't just keep on reinventing the wheel," she said.

"The discourse isn't developing, it's the same conversation and that's because no one's come up with the answer yet," she said.

Working together

Family violence is not just a problem for victims. It affects us all. Every person in New Zealand has a part to play in addressing the problem.

We have the worst rate of family violence in the developed world. The majority of that violence is against women by their male partners or ex and against children.

We can, and must, do better than this.

We must encourage women and other victims to ask for help.

We must not be afraid to ask "are you okay" if we suspect something is going on.

We must educate ourselves on the warning signs and make sure everyone around is aware.

Family violence happens in every part of the community. No one is immune but everyone has the ability to affect change.

Sergeant Tracey Sarich has been part of the police family violence team for eight years.

She knows better than anyone the damage this is doing to our country.
"If you're a victim - tell someone," she said.

"It doesn't have to be police, but find someone you trust and speak up. Confide in someone about what's going on, let someone help you.

"For everyone else, if someone confides in you, you are now their guardian angel. If you go home and do nothing - you have failed them.

"When you walk away, you're carrying that weight on your shoulders. So tell us, our shoulders are wider. If not us, just tell someone - tell a doctor, tell a support agency, tell someone you trust who can help you do something.

"I know it's a breach of someone's confidence to tell, but it's the best thing you can do."

Her colleague Sergeant Brendon Muir added: "If you don't speak up and tell someone, you're accepting it. If you don't do anything about it, you're condoning it."

Funding safe futures

It's no secret that funding is tight for services like Shine and Women's Refuge. The more we can give them, the more they can help, said Green Party MP Jan Logie.

"We have to remember that family violence refuges and specialist agencies save lives.

They provide women and children with a roof over their heads when they have nowhere else to go," she said.

"Refuges are absolutely essential and there is no way we've got a working response to family violence without them."

She recently surveyed 20 refuges around New Zealand and was "really disturbed" to find 11 of them had been forced to cut services or staff in the past six years because of a lack of funding.

"Every single one was exceeding their targets, some by 200 per cent. It's absolutely huge. We've seen in the statistics that the rate of family violence has gone up, but funding has not been increased to be able to support these services and enable them to meet that demand.

"There are needs in the community that cannot be responded to. It is deeply disturbing to hear that one refuge has increased the criteria for safe house admission - that was the only way they could keep up with demand. In that area they are turning women away and we cannot have that, it's completely unacceptable."

Going forward, she said, funding NGOs had to be a priority.

"We have an epidemic of family violence. It's endemic in this country and if we're going to try to turn that around and change it then we need the state to be able to properly fund it and ensure that the services are sustained, that when somebody needs help they can get it and it's the right help."

Education and awareness

Do we know enough about family violence? The answer is an astounding "no" from authorities and agencies.

"New Zealand hasn't really grasped the full extent of the problem," Mrs Adams said.
So what do we do about that?

Professor Fanslow said: "We know we have a problem but we are often a little bit inclined to cite that problem in other people - it's that group over there.

"The awareness of the problem needs to come very strongly with awareness of the solution. The scale of the problem is quite overwhelming. Part of our job is to break that down."

Dr Jury: "If we're going to look at societal change what I believe needs to happen is a really solid education - not about violence, kids know what that looks like - but about how we be together as people.

"We spend an awful lot of time in education talking about respect. But it doesn't explicitly address intimate partner relationships. A lot of kids at 12 and 13 are already starting to get into these relationships, there are 15-year-olds living together and in some of those cases there is already quite serious violence. The information needs to be with our little people so they are growing up with it ... and not getting it when they are 15, 16 or 17 and already in these situations."

She cited civics classes in the US as a possible model.

"In America they have civics classes. In every school they are taught about how to vote and how to understand politics. We could have something like that here, something within the curriculum that enables us to grow healthier people. I think it's the only thing that's going to make any real difference."

Aaron Steedman runs Shine's men's programmes and wants to see a much stronger focus on stopping non-physical abuse.

"If you can stop the verbal and emotional abuse, then you will stop the physical. There needs to be a lot more work around respectful relationships," he said.

Breaking the cycle of family violence

At the end of a week-long series on family violence, reporter Anna Whyte talked to those on the front line about what needs to happen next and how family violence can be prevented.

Jeremy Eparaima - It's Not Ok campaign

It's Not OK campaigner Jeremy Eparaima spoke in Te Puke last night about breaking the cycle of violence. He rules his home and family with his fists and by fear for 30 years until he made a change.

It's Not Ok campaigner Jeremy Eparaima, who spoke in Te Puke last night, said part of breaking the cycle was perpetrators taking ownership.

"They call it a cycle of violence. I see it more as a curse that you pass on through your family. If you're the one passing it on you're the only one who can break that curse," Mr Eparaima said.

He encouraged Bay of Plenty locals to reach out for help in the early stage of family violence.

"I used to see myself as not as bad as the guy that hit. But my children are 30 and 25 now, and it's what I used to say to them that they remember, not what I did with my fists. My words have left them with more scars in their life."

Mr Eparaima said "re-education" of perpetrators would give, "the skills and tools that we need to be a man, a father and a partner".

"To be told no, there's a different world out there, where there is harmony and not conflict all the time was the eye-opener for me and the anger management course gave me the skills and the tools I should've been given as a child."

Jason Perry - Western Bay of Plenty police family violence co-ordinator

Family violence co-ordinator Jason Perry said family violence should be an effort by those who knew what was going on.

"When something goes bad, people will point the finger at government agencies or other agencies that have been working to try reduce the family violence, but there is actually a big pool of people that knew about it and didn't do anything about it," he said.

"If you see something, say something. It's better to get called and prevent something from happening."

He said part of the prevention of family violence was to speak up.

"People don't want to ask for help. We're in a society, a culture where we have to do it all ourselves, but actually there are heaps of agencies out there willing to help."

Angela Warren-Clark - Tauranga Women's Refuge manager

Manager of Tauranga Women's Refuge, Angela Warren-Clark, said it was about people being courageous.

"Calling the police is often the most helpful thing a family can do for another. I know it's difficult to do that. The reality is there are so many people in this country who said, 'I wished I'd picked up the phone and asked for help' ... and they live with the regret of families being destroyed by violence," she said.

She said it was important local communities were empowered to have their own responses to domestic violence.

"It's from community up, as opposed to government down. We see that changing now and it's quite a positive thing.

"There are more and more male leaders stepping up and saying it's not okay.

"Men are stepping up and we need more of them," she said.

Antonio Nucci - Tauranga Living Without Violence men's programme facilitator

Antonio Nucci of Tauranga Living Without Violence has worked with both victims and perpetrators and said increased funding and accessibility of anti-violence programmes could break the cycles he often saw.

"Often there is a lot of stigma around getting help.

"We're really here to help them build stronger families.

"If violence is present in the relationship, it will just continue to destroy it," he said.
Mr Nucci said it was important to let people know there were many places people could go for help.

"I really love what the media has been doing lately, taking it off the back burner and really putting it up there for people to see.

"Let's not keep it a secret anymore, it's about letting people know there is help."

- Anna Whyte