Domestic violence cases increasing

BY JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 29/03/2010
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Domestic abuse cases are rising, but a high-profile campaign against family violence will run out of funding in June.

Work on a new phase of the "It's Not OK" campaign is under way, but a decision on fresh funding is not due until the Budget in May.

The number of assaults on women is rising, with attacks in Canterbury climbing faster than nationally, police statistics show.

Christchurch women's refuge staff said the number of families getting help was increasing by about 10 per cent a year.

Campaign spokeswoman Gael Surgenor said there was funding until June 30, but there was still work to be done.

"We are working on a new phase of the campaign. Its focus will be on giving and receiving help," she said.

"I think we have created a supportive environment, where a conversation is happening that had not been there before.

"It will take a long-term effort to turn things around."

A Ministry of Social Development spokeswoman said any funding decisions would be part of Budget announcements.

Lisa Close, a spokeswoman for a domestic-abuse survivors group, It's Still Not OK, said while the campaign had highlighted issues related to domestic abuse, there had been an influx of victims seeking help who had been let down.

"It's done its job – I don't think it should necessarily be canned – but I think it needs to be working hand-in-hand to help protect victims, and address system failures.

"You can't encourage people to leave [a violent partner], then completely drop them in a deep hole," she said.

Police figures showed the number of assaults by males on females, nationally, increased by about 40 per cent in the 10 years to 2008, with 9630 assaults.

In Canterbury, reported assaults increased by 75 per cent, from 397 to 695.

The number of reported assaults on females in homes have risen from 313 in 1998 to 570 in 2008.

Christchurch Women's Refuge spokeswoman Annette Gillespie said the refuge helped between 450 and 600 families each month.

Any funding cuts to the "It's Not OK" campaign would be a concern, she said.

"It has been very effective [but it] would be quickly lost if they were to stop it.

"It has reached a wide audience – not just those affected by domestic violence.

"My impression is there's less blame being placed on victims than there was five years ago."

While domestic violence numbers were increasing, more people were asking for help, she said.

Labour deputy leader Annette King said losing the "It's Not OK" programme would amount to "cynical manipulation of crime statistics", as reporting of domestic abuse would fall if the campaign ended.

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Awareness campaigns needed to run for years in order to change public attitudes, she said.

"If you stop highlighting the issue, everything will go backwards. It will be back to like it was when no-one was talking about it and family violence will continue."

Love leads to abuse

A Christchurch woman strangled by her former husband says the physical assault was just one aspect of the abuse she suffered.

Therese Spinks, 47, was attacked by James Hunia Johnson, 43, at a Hanmer Springs holiday park last year after four years of marriage.

At a judge-alone hearing in the Christchurch District Court on Wednesday, Johnson pleaded not guilty to male assaults female.

Judge Philip Moran convicted Johnson after he was unable to explain bruises on Spinks' neck.

Spinks told The Press that after an incident about two years ago, she called police and had a protection order put in place.

"I was devastated, I loved this man," she said.

Spinks said she took Johnson back, thinking he could be "healed". "They have a way of throwing out a hook and pulling you back in. Now I realise ... he's too damaged."

Her husband manipulated and controlled her, she said.

"When something was important in my life, he wouldn't even allow me that."

At times he would build her up and at other times "devalue" her with subtle comments.

Spinks, who works in counselling, said she made excuses for her former husband.

In Hanmer Springs in September 2009, the pair argued in their cabin, Spinks told the court on Wednesday.

Johnson "shadow-boxed" her then started throwing her clothes out of the cabin, the court was told.

She grabbed a chain from around his neck and threw it outside, at which time he grabbed her around the neck and started choking her, Spinks said.

"I thought he was quite capable of killing me."

Johnson was convicted of male assaults female and breach of a protection order.

Sentencing was set for May 12.

- with Ian Steward

- The Press

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