Seasonal domestic violence is on the rise but you can help stop it

Domestic violence – the behind-closed-doors crime that includes sexual and verbal abuse -is responsible for at least half of New Zealand’s homicides. Crime figures rise dramatically at Christmas time according to New Zealand statistics. Pressure from financing gifts, food and holidays is understood to mix with an exaggerated intake of alcohol and drugs to produce more frequent episodes of these potentially fatal episodes.

Holly Carrington, Shine’s (Safer Homes in New Zealand Everyday) Communications and Development Director says that even the average mortality rate is frightening.

“It’s important for people to realise how serious the issue is – a woman is killed by her partner or ex-partner every 3 ½ weeks, and a child is killed by a family member every 6 weeks”.

Unfortunately Ms Carrington also relayed to Case Basket that Shine’s Crisis Team Coordinator felt these kind of arrests had risen this Christmas more than ever before.

“She was able to tell me, anecdotally, that there were definitely more domestic abuse related arrests than usual, but she couldn’t quantify any more than that.”

Figures will be published here towards the end of January.

It was against this troubling backdrop that blogger, radio host and psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald and others became incensed by jokes about rape made by the New Zealand Prime Minister on live radio, December 16. The next day MacDonald pitched his campaign to extinguish John Key’s role as a White Ribbon ambassador. White Ribbon lobbies against domestic and sexual violence on many levels and can be traced as far back as positive social change effected by suffragette Kate Sheppard in the late 1800’s.

Key is expected to be sensitive and supportive of all aspects of domestic and sexual violence but in stark contrast to that expectation, the PM joked about rape in men’s prisons. MacDonald framed the shocking audio moment in a passionate press release and linked petition.

This is not the first time that the Prime Minister has shown his lack of sensitivity and understanding of sexual violence and abuse, in fact he has a clear track record of showing his lack of understanding of such matters.

 “For me, it was the last straw” says Kyle MacDonald, psychotherapist and blogger.  “I felt this time I had to take a stand, and the idea that someone with Key’s views on sexual violence and abuse should be an ambassador for the White Ribbon anti-violence campaign is, frankly, repugnant.”

Leading New Zealand’s social change landscape with petitions, Action Station’s National Director Marianne Elliott also weighed in on the offence.

“It’s been less than two weeks since our petition calling on Key to apologise for his ‘backing rapist’ comments was tabled in Parliament, and only a week since he apologised for those comments. Yet here he is again, trivialising sexual violence.”

Later, MacDonald told Case Basket why domestic and sexual violence, including that which occurs in the prison system, is so insidious.

“Domestic violence is a hidden crime, by and large.  Hidden by the fact it occurs behind closed doors…and embarrassment the victims feel…hidden by our cultures’ own misplaced beliefs about violence. The way in which we belittle victims can make it hard for people to speak out, and move away from the violence in their own lives.

“That’s why I personally feel that it is so important to speak out, to say, as the campaign says, It’s not OK when we see or hear of violence, or attitudes that minimise or promote violence of any sort.

“This kind of ‘calling out’, whether it be your friend, your neighbour, or the Prime Minister, is vital when it comes to shifting societal attitudes and beliefs, and ultimately changing the fact that even in New Zealand, in this day and age one in three women will experience violence at the hands of their partner, in their lifetime.”

Ms Carrington says that social change will accelerate when people know they can do something to help – if they know or even suspect that domestic violence is happening in their midst.

“If someone doesn’t know what to do, ring our Helpline and ask for advice. Phone 0508-744-633.”

You can also make a stand against the belittlement of victims of such violence by signing the petition discussed above.

Image with thanks to