01 Aug A different approach for different results
Earlier this year the government launched a national strategy “Work to Develop’, and action plans to eliminate family violence and sexual violence in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The joint venture business unit has been coordinating this work. The JVBU was established in 2018 to bring government agencies together to work in new ways to reduce family and sexual violence. It’s role is to ensure an effective, whole-of-government response to family violence and sexual violence.
The government is inviting feedback from tangata whenua, victim-survivors, communities throughout the country, service providers and individuals.
The traditional approach to family violence in New Zealand is very much a reactive one; a victim based approach, the figurative ambulance at the bottom of the hill. There are lots of reputable and highly-skilled individuals and organisations working in this space. They help and support victims out of high-risk situations. They provide crisis intervention, education and opportunities that enable them to live violence free lives.
One of the common themes being voiced from the groups providing feedback this year is the need for a preventative approach. Our preventative approach up to this point has been a punitive response. Remove the perpetrator from society and lock them away. That is simplistic. This may remove the immediate risk, but doesn’t really solve the overall problem. We need to have a different focus on how we treat perpetrators. We need to move away from the idea that punishment changes behaviour. Although some perpetrators do make positive changes in prison, the vast majority don’t respond to the silver bullet response of punishment, yet we sit back hoping for a different result doing the same things we’ve always done.
Different approaches may yield different results, and we won’t know until we try. We need to incorporate a variety of strategies. We need to move away from using the sole solution of “lock ‘em up” to “how can we support this perpetrator to make positive change?” Or “how do we break the intergenerational cycle of family violence?” Or “what does a community that supports positive change and empowerment look like?”
It’s not to say that funding or resources should be removed from the victim side. There are many people who are going through trauma right now and need support. What needs to happen is more effort and attention needs to be given to the perpetrators as well as the victims. We need to strengthen the strategy and create a more holistic approach, because after all, there is no family violence without perpetrators.
Dane is the co-ordinator of Taranaki Safe Families Trust.