By Amanda Malu, Chief Executive
Early in my professional career I worked at the Families Commission where we joined with a number of organisations to raise the profile of White Ribbon Day.
I’m proud of what has been accomplished through White Ribbon Day over the past 10 years, as well as the impact campaigns such as “It’s Not OK” have had on how we as a society think about and respond to violence. However, as our still appalling record on violence against women and children suggests, there is still much to be done.
According to the New Zealand Police, on average, 14 women are killed by their partners or ex-partners in New Zealand each year and over 3500 convictions are recorded against men each year for assaults on women. Disturbingly, in spite of all the attention that violence against women has received, it is estimated that only 20 percent of abuse cases are reported.
We know that violence within in a household can have devastating effects on the entire family. Family violence involves controlling behaviours, commonly of a physical, sexual, and/or psychological nature which may typically involve fear, intimidation and emotional deprivation. Psychological/emotional abuse is a common form of violence experienced by women and children and may not be recognised by many people because it can be subtle and hidden. A child in a violent family home may suffer from poor brain development; feel afraid for themselves, their family, or their pets; have behaviour problems; and blame themselves for what is happening.For those in a violent relationship there can be isolation, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, alcohol and drug abuse, a distorted sense of reality, physical injuries and in some cases death.
Plunket touches the lives of 9 out of 10 New Zealand babies, and we work in partnership with families and communities with the goal of supporting families to feel informed, involved and empowered. This includes offering activities aimed at reducing social isolation, enhancing problem solving and promoting positive non-violent parenting practices.
Through our community service programmes we offer parenting education, parent groups, play groups, toy libraries, family centres and more. These services can be helpful for all families in adjusting to the different stages of a baby’s early development. For vulnerable families our community services also provide an opportunity to ask for more support when required, including getting the help required to live in a violent-free home.
Our goal through “1000 Days to Raise a Bundle” is to raise the funds required to ensure our community services are available, accessible and equitable to all families with children between the ages of 0 and 5 – no matter where they live.
We know that these services can help make the difference of a lifetime – there are times when proper support really can make a difference and parents are supported so their children are raised and nurtured in loving, violent-free homes where they can thrive and reach their full potential.
There’s still much work to be done, but I know as a society we can change. To me the White Ribbon symbolises hope. I ask you to join me in wearing the White Ribbon today in solidarity with everyone who stands against violence.
Help and support is available for those suffering from family violence. Kia kaha. Kōrero mai. If you have any concerns, please talk to your midwife, a Plunket Nurse or Plunket staff member or other well child health provider, your doctor, PlunketLine 0800 933 922, the Family Violence Information Line 0800 456 450 or Women’s Refuge 0800 733 843 helpline.