Martial arts expert sickened by domestic violence rates
A black belt in karate and kickboxing has joined the fight against domestic violence in Southland.
Pete Thompson, a martial arts expert and the Splash Palace swimming pool manager in Invercargill, is one of 18 "community champions" in Southland who are rallying against the region's shocking domestic violence rates.
Southland's family violence rates are well above the national average.
In Southland, there are 90 dwelling assaults per 10,000 people compared to the New Zealand average of 56 per 10,000, a 2015 Safer Communities Southland report says.
"It's contrary to the idea that southerners are a great bunch of friendly people," Thompson said.
"If you have more domestic violence than other parts of the country, frankly it's disappointing."
Community champions, with support from Southland police, join the fight against domestic violence with a campaign launch in Invercargill on Tuesday.
Champion campaigns are running in other parts of the country but have never before been rolled out in an entire province.
Community champions are everyday people who are police vetted, taught what to say to victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, and trained to show them where to get help.
The role of a champion has made Thompson think about the issue during his day job, and what comes to mind makes him sick.
"When I am walking around the swimming pool and see the girls in the pool I think one in three of you will be subjected to physical or sexual violence [from a partner in their lifetime] and that's scary.
"It makes me feel sick."
Thompson said his roles as a kickboxing and karate coach in Southland and as the Splash Palace manager allowed him to meet a wide cross-section of society.
"A lot of victims and perpetrators may not feel comfortable about going to the police but they may feel comfortable about going to the pool manager," he said.
"My role is to be a sounding board."
"Our plan is to get our faces out in the community so people recognise who the champions are and they may feel comfortable to come and talk to us."
Organisers of the community champions project want more people across Southland to become champions in their own communities.
- The Southland Times