NZ'S INDEPENDENT RESPONSE-SYSTEM WATCHDOG
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News and views from The Backbone Collective which advocates for women and children who have experienced violence or abuse and who are enduring further harm from New Zealand's Family Court. 

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He chose to violently assault me, yet I am the one who ultimately is paying the price. When will NZ take a stand and stop violence towards women?

A New Zealand domestic violence survivor, so moved by the current collective grief and frustration about women being hurt and killed by men, writes about her experience of abuse and her ongoing struggle to rebuild her life.

A New Zealand domestic violence survivor, so moved by the current collective grief and frustration about women being hurt and killed by men, writes about her experience of abuse and her ongoing struggle to rebuild her life.

TRUE STORY: A domestic violence survivor so moved by the current collective grief and frustration about women being hurt and killed by men writes about her experience of abuse and her ongoing struggle to rebuild her life. She calls on New Zealanders to harness this collective grief, and stop normalising violence and abuse and start changing our attitudes and behaviour towards women.

He chose to violently assault me, yet I am the one who ultimately is paying the price. When will NZ take a stand and stop violence towards women?

I had a partner who I found out was cheating on me. He was drunk when I asked him about it and he punched me in the head so many times that I lost count.  I was naked and frightened, and he was drunk, out-of-control and on top of me. This was not a fight, this was an attack.

He said it was my fault he cheated.

He said I was too hard to live with.

He said I made everything difficult for him and so he had no choice but to cheat.

And he told me all of this while he punched me repeatedly in my head.

Now I am facing an extremely long recovery from a very serious brain injury.

Now I am facing an extremely long recovery from a very serious brain injury.
— Domestic violence survivor who has been failed by the system

I did what I thought I was supposed to do. I rang the police, he was arrested and six months later the Criminal Court granted him a Discharge without Conviction.

I got a Protection and Parenting Order and within five months the Family Court ordered him un-supervised access to our very young children.

 I rang the police, I had him arrested and six months later the criminal court granted him a discharge without conviction.

I got a Protection and Parenting Order and within five months the Family Court ordered him un-supervised access to our very young children.

It’s two and a half years later and I am still recovering and he is back to living his normal life, working and in a relationship.  He’s seeing the kids every second weekend. He is still drinking alcohol; all of the signs of his cyclical abusive behaviour are still there and yet he has been totally let off the hook. It’s like the abuse never happened. It was just treated as normal by the Family Court. Maybe this is an indication of the size of our domestic violence problem in New Zealand – abuse is seen as normal in divorce? 

Yet I am still damaged on so many levels. Physically by this brain injury, financially by my inability to work, raising two kids and having to pay lawyer’s bills, emotionally from the trauma of the violence and psychologically from the trauma of the long term abuse.

I am starting again, and in some ways, I am stronger because of what I have been through, but he almost killed me.

When I tell people we separated because of domestic violence I don’t always get shocked responses. Often, I get a very quiet but brave, “me too”. Why are we as a society allowing this to still be such a common occurrence? Society has allowed all of this to be swept under the rug.

When I tell people we separated because of domestic violence I don’t always get shocked responses. Often I get a very quiet but brave, “me too.

Because of the concussion injury I am still recovering from, I don’t follow the news, I can’t yet watch moving images on screens and I struggle from fatigue every day which leaves me with very little energy for pleasures such as reading the news.

I have however, heard about and grieved the loss of Grace Millane. A beautiful young woman on an amazing adventure who was taken too soon by a man that had no right to hurt her. And it happened on our watch, while travelling around our beautiful country.

I have watched Jacinda Ardern’s heartfelt apology. I have felt the shock of New Zealanders around me both physically and virtually, and I have felt it too. I have felt it deeply as I lie in bed with this brain injury and take stock of how my life has been damaged because of the violence of a man.

I feel for all of the victims of male violence against females. The women I have known for years who have confided in me their stories since I ‘came out’. The women I have met since my experience and whose own suffering stays with me.

There are so many of us and we are talking more now than ever before but why are we are still not loud enough for the larger collective to hear and see what is going on, literally, in all of our own backyards?

There are so many of us and we are talking more now than ever before but why are we are still not loud enough for the larger collective to hear and see what is going on, literally, in all of our own backyards?

The reaction in the news to this horrific murder is moving and very real and it shows the love and empathy that humans are capable of. But the fact that violence against women still causes shock to the majority when we know that 15 women and girls were killed by men in New Zealand this year alone, concerns me.

Respectfully, Wake up New Zealand!! Our society has a mammoth problem that is still hidden in shame and darkness. Our men are hurting and killing our women and most of them are family members.

Respectfully, Wake up New Zealand!! Our society has a mammoth problem that is still hidden in shame and darkness. Our men are hurting and killing our women and most of them are family members.

Domestic Violence is in every nook and cranny of this country. Every case is unique but overall, the stories of abuse aren’t changing and haven’t changed over generations.

Since I openly talked about my domestic violence story, grandmas, aunties, mums, dads, hairdressers, doctors, general managers, carers and 20 year olds, who are just getting started in their adult worlds, have shared with me their stories of a partner’s rage and violence and the damage it has caused. 

All of these victims survived and got out and were stronger for it, but when are we as a society going to stop as a collective, acknowledge how broken all of this is and say Enough is Enough how do we fix this?

This problem is bigger than big, and it needs attention at every level - Government, the Family Court, communities, support for victims, rehabilitation for abusers, education for all of our youth and our children, programmes and support in our communities, programmes driven by every employer and institution in this country.

Violence against women and children is everywhere and it needs to be tackled everywhere.

Violence against women and children is everywhere and it needs to be tackled everywhere.

This year is the first time domestic violence has had a funding increase in the Government’s budget in nine years! Right now, while some good is being done, it simply is not enough.

Nothing will change if nothing changes.

As a New Zealander, if you are feeling extreme grief over the murder of Grace or any other victim of male violence please harness your grief, feel your anger and use it to motivate yourself to take positive action to be part of the change. We are so much closer to positive change than we have ever been, and change is needed more than ever before.

Nothing will change if nothing changes.

Be part of the change, any part, even if it is simply not remaining silent about another man’s views or opinions of a woman or women in general.

If there is one thing Grace Millane has shown me it is that society is disgusted that this happened to her. I urge everyone who can to use their disgust, harness their grief and anger for how unfair all of this is for Grace and her family and be part of the change to help all women to be safe.

If there is one thing Grace Millane has shown me it is that society is disgusted that this happened to her. I urge everyone who can to use their disgust, harness their grief and anger for how unfair all of this is for Grace and her family and be part of the change to help all women to be safe.
 

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about the backbone collective

New Zealand has the highest rate of women experiencing violence and abuse in the developed world, which is due in part to our broken response system.

The Backbone Collective is an independent body taking action to change New Zealand's dire statistics by examining the response system through the eyes of its users - women who have experienced violence and abuse.

Please join us as either a woman who has experienced violence or abuse, or as a volunteer who wants to help by volunteering your time, services or expertise.

Many reports have been written about where the system is broken but they have fallen on deaf ears. We think that Government and others in a position of power will start listening when hundreds, and potentially thousands, of women speak up about what needs to change.