Hamilton PhD student tackling country’s domestic violence problem

Hamilton PhD student tackling country’s domestic violence problem

Apriel Jolliffe Simpson spends her days wading through hundreds of family violence reports.

At last count, there were more than 2000 case files from the Waikato and Canterbury regions, from November last year.

The Hamilton PhD student is looking to identify risk-factors, and the nature of the incident, to see if she can find patterns of behaviour.

It’s a timely investigation as New Zealand has the highest rates of reported domestic violence in the OECD, Jolliffe Simpson said.

The 23-year-old is six months into her doctorate research after recently completing a Bachelor of Social Sciences with Honours (First Class) in Psychology at the University of Waikato.

She has also earned a William Georgetti Scholarship worth $10,000 a year for three years.

The scholarships are awarded to postgraduate students who are undertaking research important to the social, cultural or economic development of New Zealand.

Jolliffe Simpson said the award means she can focus solely on her PhD and hopes to complete it by the end of 2021.

She’s working with agencies involved in the Integrated Safety Response (ISR), a model that brings together government organisations, such as police, Oranga Tamariki, Corrections and local DHBs.

Of the 2000 records, Jolliffe Simpson will only take an individual’s first record.

She will then follow-up any subsequent incidents over the next two years.

“I will look at what happens, who was involved, how serious it was and see if there are patterns of escalation or de-escalation.

“There are several different factors to look at and I hope to gather as much information as possible.”

She hopes the outcome of her research will be used to prevent family violence.

“Out of all the sciences, psychology is the one that offers you the chance to understand human behaviour.

“It’s an attempt to measure human behaviour and improve it for the better – no other research allows you to do that the same way.

“There are clear benefits, links to policy and programmes, and because it’s useful for society it keeps me motivated.”

Jolliffe Simpson experienced family violence growing up, but that’s as far as she’ll speak on the topic as she says it’s not her story to tell.

Her experience was also one of the reasons she chose this field of research.

“I’ve always thought it was an important topic but I never thought I’d be in a position to do something about it.

“In New Zealand, you have to have had a very fortunate upbringing to not know family violence is a problem.

“Even if you haven’t experienced it yourself, you will know of someone who has. So if you are unaware of it, you are one of the lucky ones.”