It is our national shame.
We are hurting and killing our children at horrific rates.
And we are damaging future generations who have to watch as people they love are beaten and abused.
According to It’s Not OK, police investigated 118,910 family violence incidents in 2016, an increase of 800 from the year before.
14% of young people report being hit or physically harmed on purpose by an adult at home in the last 12 months.
20% of girls and 9% of boys in New Zealand report unwanted sexual touching or being forced to do sexual things.
Those are awful statistics. The impact of family violence on children is enormous and tragic. UNICEF NZ has heard from New Zealanders who were abused as children, and the impact of abuse on their lives. The damage is impossible to ignore.
According to Unicef’s Innocenti Report New Zealand has one of the highest rates of child homicide in the developed world. For every million children there are 7.8 child deaths by intentional assault — higher than the global average by 0.8.
Organisations such as Women’s Refuge and Birthright have been working for decades to tackle these problems, and deal with the awful consequences.
Womens Refuge CEO Dr Ang Jury says it is an issue affecting all people, from all walks of life. And children are affected particularly badly.
“The thing that bothers me is that little people shouldn’t say, when they come into a refuge, “this is the first time I felt safe.’”
“It shouldn’t be a case where they have to come into the refuge to get a good night’s sleep. It shouldn’t be a case where they come into a refuge and it’s the first time they can play and make a noise in the house and not get in trouble for that.
“What we are doing is making them feel safe. We are providing somewhere safe for them to be. That’s the bottom line.”
But funding is a constant struggle, and considering the important work done by organisations like these, it shouldn’t be.
UNICEF NZ wants to see more support and funding being given to addressing the causes of family violence; things like, housing, living wages, and support for parents under pressure, without any reduction to family violence support services.
Children affected by family violence need access to their own advocate.
Finally, UNICEF NZ is calling for independent inquiries; into the role and operation of the Family Court, and into the historic abuse of children in state care. We owe it to those who have lived with abuse in the past, and we owe it to all the New Zealand children who will be born in the future.
This election, when you head to the voting booth, we’d like you to keep in mind the nine children, ten men and thirteen women, killed every year by someone close to them. We owe it to them to do better.
Vivien Maidaborn, UNICEF NZ Executive Director