It is amazing to see the government take the initiative and increase funding to address New Zealand's horrific family and sexual violence rates.

On May 19 the government announced it would deliver the largest-ever investment in family and sexual violence and support services. The cash injection is huge. It's millions of dollars.

In a press release the government has said it will spend $320 million across five areas, including reforming the criminal justice system to better respond to victims of sexual violence, and creating safe, consistent and effective response to family violence in every community.

The fact the government is targeting "every community" is significant, as this will enable provincial New Zealand to be included too. Provincial New Zealand is not a stranger to these family or sexually-violent crimes — we all know victims or perpetrators of family violence, and our district courts are never low on business, nor are our local newspapers empty of such crime reports.

Advertisement

These types of crime are often insidious, and hidden from public view. They usually target a community's most vulnerable and unprotected citizens. The perpetrators of such crimes don't always target humans either.

The New Zealand Herald is reporting that a Women's Refuge research project revealed that one reason why people stay in an abusive relationship is fear of what will happen to the family's pet or farm animal if they leave. New Zealand's first Pet Refuge has now been launched, so when people flee they can get their animals to safety too. The abuse of animals is part of the family violence problem.

Abusing a person or animal is never okay. Anything that can be done to reduce and stop those major societal problems should be investigated and implemented.

There is an ad campaign on people who try to leave their abusive partners but can't because they don't want to abandon their animals to the violent offender. It is a tear-inducing campaign, and highlights the tragedy of the overall situation of existing or growing up in a violent home.

Abuse pet shelters, such as the one mentioned, are likely to be some time coming for much of rural and provincial New Zealand, but what we do have is local council pounds or animal shelters run by the SPCA and other NGOs. If you are an abuse victim, please consider these places as options for your animals. If your animals of concern are livestock, please contact the SPCA or the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Rural crime prevention is an area that needs a funding increase, so any additional provisions for provincial areas will be gratefully received and appropriately targeted.

Through our networks and relationships, let's make sure the government takes account of this problem so that animal cruelty is not one of the barriers to people escaping family and sexual violence.