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New Zealand Police planning to withdraw from family violence callouts

The New Zealand Police have advised the Police Minister they are planning to withdraw from attending all family violence/harm episodes.

There has been a significant increase (80%) in the number of calls to Police for family violence episodes over the past 10 years. The increased public awareness of family violence has likely contributed to this. Sadly, Police are simply not appropriately resourced to deal with the volume of family violence callouts.

Dr Ang Jury (Women's Refuge) believes that there are significant risks with Police's intention to withdraw from responding to episodes of family violence where they initially deem that no offence has occurred. Primary victims may not be able to fully describe what is happening to them over the phone due to the predominant aggressor being present. Ang states that "Family violence victims, will often underplay what it is that's happening for a variety of reasons, and they may not necessarily be providing enough information for that call taker to triage effectively,"

Speaking over the phone may actually increase the primary victim's risk if they say something the predominant aggressor does not like. In our view, face to face engagement is the most appropriate response when there is family violence.

Primary victims may be seeking help from the Police to get the predominant aggressor to leave the home out of fears for their safety. If these situations are not adequately responded to, it can leave the primary victim unsafe. As Dr Ang Jury said, "People don't invite police around just because they feel like a visit. They invite them around because they're scared". Police have (incorrectly) framed some episodes of family violence as "non-crime social problems".

ECLIPSE says that all forms of family violence are forms of coercive control and result in a liberty crime of isolation and control. Aotearoa New Zealand does not (yet) have legislation criminalising coercive control. Other countries (such as the United Kingdom and Australia) have legislation which recognises the significant harm caused by coercive control. ECLIPSE are strongly advocating for the introduction of this legislation in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Now is the opportunity for there to be a sectoral discussion on how we respond to calls for support when there is family violence. There needs to be strong and robust options available to ensure that primary victims receive the support and response they need when they ask for help. We will be releasing our own thoughts on what this response might look like in the near future.

We need to be calling on the Government to make sure there is a wide discussion with the sector and public about how we respond to family violence. There cannot simply be a decision to withdraw due to resourcing pressures.

Aotearoa New Zealand has one of the highest rates of family violence in the developed world and we need to make sure we have appropriate responses which place victim safety at the centre. Now is a great opportunity to redesign our family violence response.

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