Standing up to violence

VANITA PRASAD
Last updated 05:00 23/11/2010
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Vanita Prasad
STAND UP: Former New Zealand Warrior Awen Guttenbeil does not tolerate violence against women.
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Vanita Prasad
STAND UP: Former New Zealand Warrior Awen Guttenbeil does not tolerate violence against women.

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AROUND 3000 children in Waitakere see domestic violence in their homes every year.

It is a statistic that west Auckland's violence prevention services is trying to change.

Thursday is White Ribbon Day, dedicated to stopping violence against women.

White ribbon ambassador and former New Zealand Warrior Awen Guttenbeil grew up around domestic violence.

"As a child I was around it and exposed to it," the former Kelston Boys High School student says.

"I remember how terrifying it was and I still battle with it. It scarred me deeply."

As an adult Awen has intervened to help a female family member who was in a violent relationship.

"It wasn't easy when you see something like that happening to someone you love.

"In a way you become the villain when you're actually there to support them. But the end result was good and she's now in a happy relationship."

Sergeant Iain Chapman says police attend between 300 to 400 domestic violence incidents in Waitakere every month.

There is an increase in family violence during summer.

"It's hard to isolate the variables that create these situations but financial stress and increased alcohol are usually factors over the holiday period," Mr Chapman says.

Western Refuge is one of the many west Auckland agencies helping victims of domestic violence.

It gets involved in more than 60 percent of cases reported to police.

Western Refuge and Viviana Outreach chief executive Poto Williams says violence statistics involving Maori families are too high and increasing.

She says 35 percent of incidents reported to the police involve Maori.

Ms Williams says new migrants also suffer from domestic violence, which she attributes to issues with integrating into the community.

She says huge improvements need to be made but the nationwide "It's not okay" campaign, aimed at eliminating abuse in New Zealand, is starting to make an impact.

"We are starting to get to the point when children are telling parents it's not okay and neighbours are reporting when they notice abuse occurring."

Ms Williams says the It's Not Okay in Waitakere White Ribbon Day Parade shows how the days of not speaking publicly about domestic violence have ended. The community is encouraged to march together against domestic violence in central Henderson on Thursday.

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The parade starts at the Waitakere Hospital Marae at 1pm. People wanting to join in should gather at 12.30pm.

- Western Leader

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