MOST of us find family violence abhorrent. I'd like to say "all of us", but that would be a lie. If we all hated family violence, there wouldn't be any.

But, in fact, New Zealanders are very good at it - half of our relatively high murder rate is the result of family violence, and virtually all of our extremely high assaults on children are the result of family violence, including the death of one child per month in the family home, usually at the hands of people supposed to love and care for them.

We have a huge problem and we have done enough talking about it.

The law changes we have made and the policy changes implemented to beat the problem only go so far.


With these changes has to come the attitudinal change and it is this change that is one of the highest hurdles we face.

Because family violence happens between people in relationships, or just recently out of relationships, it is no surprise that manipulation by threats and intimidation through fear play a bigger role than in the usual run-of-the-mill violence on the street or the punch-up at a party - though the frequency of these events just underline that Kiwis are quick to lash out.

The suggestion is that new offences may be needed which would form part of family violence legislation so that convictions would give an account of the context of offending.

Judges can then be instructed to pay special attention to these matters and make sure they have full historical facts before sentencing, as the law changes and policy back-up would trigger certain court procedures preventing the minimising of violence offences away from the "it's-just-another-domestic" mentality.

We already have factors which add weight to a sentence handed down for assault such as the presence of children, the language used, the relationship between parties to the assault and the currency of domestic proceedings, but there needs to be more.

The most insidious quirk of domestic violence is that it teaches our boys it is expected and understandable that they grow up to beat their partners and it teaches our girls they should expect a hiding from time to time.

This even to the point when she says: "He only beats me to show he loves me" - though it is the complete antithesis of a display of love, surely.

The fact is that the more we know people, the better we know how to push their buttons to annoy them.


Family violence investigation, prosecution, and recovery are complex areas to work in.

We haven't got the responses we'd like as a nation in spite of the excellent results we have seen so far.

It is a hard nut to crack ... but we must.