If I told you we'd like to see more reported family violence, you would probably say I'm in the wrong role and should do something else.
But that's exactly what we want to see. The key word here is "reported". We don't want more family violence, but we do want more family violence being reported. Why? That's easy. We know that family violence perpetrators thrive in an environment behind closed doors. They rely on power and control, isolation and manipulation.
They know we have historically had a culture of turning the other cheek and ignoring the situation. And because of this, it's estimated that only around 25 per cent of total incidents are reported to the appropriate agencies. That means three quarters of family violence incidents are not being reported. The unknown is far too great. The reasons so much family violence is not being reported are numerous:
• Shame or humiliation from the victim.
• Manipulation and promises of change from the perpetrator.
• The fear of suffering more abuse if you do report.
• Family loyalty.
• Thinking it's not our business. There's even the idea of not wanting to be thought of as "a nark".
In the past 15 years, the number of reported police family harm investigations increased 400 per cent. In 2005, Taranaki Police responded to about 1300 family violence incidents. That works out to be 110 a month, or just under four each day. Fast forward to today and the annual number is now above 5000. This equates to over 400 a month, or around 14 callouts each day.
On the surface and without context, it would seem family violence is spiraling out of control but this is not necessarily the case. A measurement of success is to see the number of reports increase, and the severity of these incidents decrease.
We would also hope the culture is slowly changing and more of the community are buying into the idea that we can all contribute to tackling family violence. We need to leave the idea of "it's not my business, I don't want to get involved" in the past where it belongs.
If you know someone who is vulnerable and/or at risk, you have a community obligation to stand up and say something. Be the voice for those who can't.
- Dane Haskell is the co-ordinator of Taranaki Safe Families Trust