DID YOU know that domestic violence has its own allocated day in Masterton District Court?
Court days are divided into sentencing, youth court, a basic "list" day of misdemeanours, and defended hearings -- the trials, although the latter has tended to be shifted to Wellington these days.
But there's a day set aside for the long list of "DV", and it is a day we don't always attend.
I am a great believer in open court and an open system of justice, and the last thing we should ever do is keep domestic violence hidden from view like some dirty little secret. It is right that those who commit domestic violence should be named and shamed.
But it is depressing that it has its own allocated day. Unfortunately, it's a frequent crime. Police publish a national list, updated every few minutes or so, of calls the police are attending.
Domestic violence incidents pepper the long list, among traffic stops, assaults, missing people, trespassing, vehicle crashes, sudden deaths and shoplifting.
I've heard anedoctally that frequency increases when the All Blacks lose a game.
It's the ambiguity of domestic violence that gets to me. A man thumping a woman (or the opposite) is clear-cut at that particular moment, because that's a crime. But relationships are unique and complex, functioning (or dysfunctioning) on all sorts of levels. And, by the time the issue comes to court, a couple can be operating on a whole different level -- and curse the paper for bringing up the "past", if the thumping happened a month or two months ago. It's one reason why the DV days aren't always followed by media.
Court is an inevitable part of the justice system, but the greater solutions are the support networks such as Stopping Violence networks and Women's Refuge which are forces for enabling good decisions and educating all sides. This is where real strength and bravery are required for change. The courts will punish, if you simply want to be adversarial about it. But the courts will also respect a person who recognises in themselves that they want to change, and are taking steps to do so. That's the kind of story we'd much rather write about.