Scale of family violence revealed

LAIRD HARPER
Last updated 05:00 17/09/2012

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An initiative designed to combat family violence at its source has unearthed the scale of abuse in south and central Taranaki.

Raw data released to the Taranaki Daily News by HRC Family Counselling Services reveals they attended more than two domestic violence incidents a day in the last nine months.

And the revelations come as the group announces it has to cut services to save money.

HRC manager Pam Bassett said the figures came from a project they launched in January to follow up on every reported domestic incident across the two districts.

Enlisting the help of police, and other community groups, they visit families affected to see what social interventions are needed.

What they didn't realise was exactly how monumental that task would be, she said.

Since the beginning of the year, about 230 people chose to inflict physical or emotional abuse on their loved ones, with just under half of those coming from a European background.

"A lot of people think it's gangs, Maori and Pacific Islanders but it's all walks of life," she said.

So far the group has worked with 446 families.

Ms Bassett said with the Government funding only 190 visits this year they now relied heavily on volunteers to keep up with demand.

And those on the frontlines are now being asked to stretch their dollar even further as usually reliable funding avenues dry up.

The HRC has axed 18 client hours a week and will close its doors on Fridays to save $40,000 over the next year.

The cuts stretch right across all their services which includes counselling and anger management courses.

Ms Bassett said it was frustrating to know they were making a difference but that the money didn't follow.

"I'm tired, 14 years down the track it should be getting easier.

"We have proven we are a bloody good organisation."

She said the small community group would do the best it could to fill the void but as demand increased people would inevitably fall through the cracks. Ms Bassett said no-one would be turned away as their free, 24/7 crisis line and callout service would still be manned by volunteers, but secondary services would incur a cost.

"We don't want to charge people for our [secondary] services because we don't want there to be any barrier to families seeking help.

"But it is something we have to think about now."

The extent of the problem left both of the district's mayors reeling.

South Taranaki Mayor Ross Dunlop said people needed to take a good look in the mirror and start combating the issue.

"I find the statistics abhorrent."

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He hoped the high numbers reflected increased reporting rather than an increase in violence.

Stratford Mayor Neil Volzke said he applauded HRC for "exposing" the issue.

He said now the facts were on the table the public needed to work on creating a downward trend.

For police the numbers are nothing new and reflected the grim reality they faced daily.

Rural Taranaki family violence prevention co-ordinator Sergeant Phil Taikato said his goal was to create safety measures for children who witnessed the abuse.

He said by identifying the children involved they could work toward stopping future offenders.

Meanwhile, his North Taranaki counterpart, Detective Sergeant David Beattie, said victims of domestic violence needed to remember that Taranaki police had a "successful strike rate" in prosecuting offenders.

He said they had about 1500 incidents last year and their southern neighbours were on track to get half that, which would reflect the difference in population.

"Sadly we are in a growth industry."

BY THE NUMBERS

A snapshot of reported domestic violence incidents responded to by HRC Family Counselling Services since the beginning of this year.

Hawera Families visited – 222

Number of offenders dealt with: 111 – 36 European, 74 Maori and Pacific Islanders, one other.

Stratford Families visited – 104

Number of offenders dealt with: 52 – 30 European, 21 Maori and Pacific Islanders, one other.

Eltham Families visited – 21

Number of offenders dealt with: 21 – 10 European, 11 Maori or Pacific Islanders.

- Taranaki Daily News

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