We need to call out to each other - the survivors - the women who have the words and understanding to make sense of the Violence Against Women problem. WE can do this. We can create a new backdrop to the way Violence Against Women is responded to. Together we can make sure that the loudest voice being heard is that of the survivors rather than the abusers...Let's turn up the volume so the deaf ears hear us.
- Violence Against Women survivor
What is The Backbone Collective?
The Backbone Collective is a national coalition of survivors of Violence Against Women in Aotearoa New Zealand.
There are many aspects of society that survivors often negotiate after they have experienced violence and abuse. There are institutions and services designed to work directly or formally with survivors (for example, the police, the courts, health services, Child Youth & Family Services) as well as agencies, groups or individuals working indirectly or informally (for example, social services, community services, ecclesiastic services, interventions from schools, friends, whānau or family members).
Collectively, these different aspects make up the 'response system', which we believe must be focused on what survivors need to be safe and to rebuild their lives, must not cause more harm, and all parts of the system must be joined together to make it easy and safe for survivors to navigate.
The backbone symbolises strength, determination and connectedness. Women who suffer violence and abuse show great fortitude, courage and determination throughout their lives. However, it is hard to speak up when you have been made vulnerable through violence and abuse. We are often isolated and hurting and it's hard to talk about an experience that is still minimised and misunderstood.
We are confident that The Backbone Collective will help us combine our strength and courage and support survivors to speak out as a collective, rather than as individuals, and call for a society that does not condone Violence Against Women and responds effectively when it occurs.
What are we planning and why?
Serious social issues often require people to speak out, call for change and improvement and get involved. In recent years, there have been many reports showing that the current response system for Violence Against Women in Aotearoa New Zealand is inadequate. We think survivors are the people who know best where the system is and isn’t working. Women have tried to have input at various times and through various projects. However, despite this our collective voices have been lost.
Although there are initiatives to collect the voices of child abuse survivors, e.g. the children's advocacy service being set up under the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children and the Office of the Children's Commissioner, currently nothing similar exists that enables women survivors to be heard in a safe way. The Backbone Collective seeks to fix that.
We have created an online communication platform to enable Violence Against Women survivors to have their voices heard. We are using this online platform to run an ongoing series of secure, online surveys to enable us to collect anonymous feedback from as many survivors as we can reach.
The surveys help us to show how violence and abuse affects women, where the system does and doesn't work for them, and where improvements need to be made in order to ensure survivors are kept safe and are able to rebuild their lives.
We are presenting survivors' voices in a collective way so no individual can be identified. We are then using that feedback to send clear and strong messages to politicians, policy makers, the legal fraternity, service agencies, media, and the public, about what change is needed.
Please access survey results here.
What we need from you
The Backbone Collective is a totally new entity. We have set it up to give women who have experienced any type of violence or abuse a voice, so your ideas and input are important. We want to hear from as many women as possible to make sure we continue to build something you want, and that can make a difference to your lives.
We hope you will share the link to this website with as many women as possible - using email, social media, panui and newsletters - and ask them to pass it on to women they know too.
Please sign up to The Backbone Collective here and we will keep you up-to-date with progress.
Our commitment to survivors
The Backbone Collective respects Māori as tangata whenua and Te Tiriti O Waitangi as the founding document that guides relationships between tangata whenua and tauiwi. We acknowledge the harm done to Māori through the colonisation of Aotearoa, the loss of Māori land, language and culture. We are committed to ensuring the voices of Māori survivors are heard in a way that respects collective, cultural, and personal suffering.
The safety of women is paramount to us. We want to build a collective that is safe and easy to access and use. The safety of any information you share with us is our primary concern:
- All information you provide via our online surveys is completely confidential and combined with the views of all those who respond
- No information that could identify you will be shared with anyone
- We are working hard to ensure that our website and surveys are safe to use. If you don't feel safe using your own computer or email, please use that of a trusted person
There is no 'one size fits all' description for survivors of Violence Against Women. We understand that women come from many different backgrounds and life experiences. We believe in listening, validating and valuing all of your voices. We are all different but we share a common experience of violence and abuse that connects us. We believe that a collective based on our shared experience of violence and abuse can provide strength and community for us all.