Concern at rising family violence

IAIN SCOTT
Last updated 07:25 13/02/2014

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A Salvation Army report indicating a rise in violence against children does not surprise Manawatu social service providers, with one saying there had also been an increase in youth violence as a result.

The Salvation Army's annual state of the nation report noted the number of substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect in New Zealand rose 3.7 per cent to 22,984 last year. There were also 5212 offences against children for violence, mistreatment or neglect, an increase of 1.3 per cent.

Palmerston North Salvation Army community ministries manager Kevin Richards said although he did not have statistics, cases dealt with in Palmerston North indicated the city did not buck the national trend. He said it was difficult to talk about reasons as it was a complex issue.

"The situation is very complicated and multi-faceted, including any range of problems that might show up in negative social statistics around crime and addiction, family violence, mental health problems, substance abuse and things like that."

He said legal highs were also having a "big impact".

"We know from the work we are doing here that legal highs are destroying lives, not only of the people who use them but people who are closely associated with them, and that will include their children."

Manawatu Women's Refuge manager Ang Jury said: "It's the same old stuff that we've been talking about for a long time and I totally agree with their conclusions that we are heading for an even nastier social problem if we don't deal with that now."

She said the refuge, whose "vast majority" of clients had children, had experienced a caseload increase each year for a few years.

"There's always an increase but at the same time when you look at those sorts of numbers, a lot of them are taken care of by population growth. So whether there's actually more or less, it's a bit debatable but it's certainly not getting any better and I think that's what the Sallies report was really highlighting."

It was clear something needed to be done, she said.

"Until we actually achieve some realistic and robust social change, particularly around gender roles and things like that, I can't see that we're going to do anything other than just knock the top off, no matter what services we put in."

Te Manawa Services manager Julie Miller said children from families with a history of violence often became perpetrators of violence themselves and youth violence was on the rise.

"Child violence has definitely been a concern. We've found with the children that have been referred to us for issues of violence and abuse, there is almost invariably a background culture in their family of bullying, or violence and abuse between parents, or from parents to siblings."

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Bullying and cyberbullying had become a real issue.

She said a violent home environment had a severe impact.

"The main risk for children is not just their witnessing and the impact on them socially and mentally.

"It affects their ability to learn at school and it affects their brain development. But they then become the bullies and violent ones at school too."

- Manawatu Standard

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