New Zealand has the worst rate of family and intimate-partner violence in the world. Eighty per cent of incidents go unreported — so what we know of family violence in our community is barely the tip of the iceberg. The aim of the Better Than This series is to raise awareness, to educate, to give an insight into the victims and perpetrators. We want to encourage victims to have the strength to speak out, and abusers the courage to change their behaviour.

Changing an abuser's behaviour is no easy task, said Aaron Steedman, an anti-violence co-ordinator with the group Shine. He should know: Years ago, he strangled his partner during an argument.

Read more:
Family violence: When an offender becomes a helper

"In my mind an injustice had been done to me in the argument and I needed to right that wrong," he explained in a Herald live chat (scroll down for transcript).

Eventually, he and his partner separated. He lost his business. After moving out of Auckland, he enrolled in a men's anti-violence programme himself. Years later, he became a group facilitator for men who engage in violence.


Steedman admitted he still experiences anger, but he knows when it arises, why it's there and how to deal with it before it endangers others and himself. And he knows that anger shouldn't lead to violence:

"Anger is a natural emotion. Abuse and violence are behaviours. Everyone feels anger, but not everyone is abusive. Therefore, it is a behaviour which means it can be modified and changed."

But that sort of behavioural change takes weeks, if not years, he said. It took two years of attending a programme before he started to help others.

"It's not a simple case of giving them tools. It's a process that happens over time."

"Ultimately, getting [abusers] to open up and realise the emotions that underpin the anger (ie usually grief or a sense of injustice) starts to help them become more aware of themselves. And you can't change something unless you are aware of it.

"I see my role as getting men to want to engage in the programme initially. Then coming to an understanding of their anger, abuse or violence actually takes several weeks of group experience to really start to recognise that they are like that.

"The more they are around the other men owning it, the more they are able to own it themselves."

Chat Transcript

Help for men

If you are experiencing or witnessing violence, or want to change your own behaviour, you can ask for help. It can be hard, but getting involved or reaching out for help for yourself could save a life.

• It's Not OK information line 0800-456-450 for information about services that can help men.

• Shine runs a No Excuses stopping-violence programme for men. Ring the helpline on 0508-744-633 to find a programme near you or even if you just want to talk to someone and talk through your options.

• The National Network of Stopping Violence Services also has information on stopping-violence programmes.

If you're in danger NOW:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you
• Run outside and head for where there are other people
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you
• Take the children with you
• Don't stop to get anything else
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

• Women's Refuge: Free national crisisline operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisisline 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice:
• National Network of Stopping Violence:
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent.

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New Zealand has the worst rate of family violence in the developed world. One in three women will be subjected to physical or sexual violence from a partner at some point in their lives.

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