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New data report released on family violence deaths

June 29, 2017 at 5:09 PM

*From the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse*

The Family Violence Death Review Committee has released a new report analysing data on family violence deaths.

This Fifth Report Data is a companion piece to the Committee’s comprehensiveFifth Report, released in 2016. A media summary with infographics is also available.

The report presents data analysed for three main types of family violence deaths in Aotearoa New Zealand from 2009 to 2015:

  • intimate partner violence (IPV)
  • child abuse and neglect (CAN)
  • intrafamilial violence (IFV).

The key findings of the report are:

  • "There were 194 family violence deaths over seven years, with IPV deaths making up almost half of these deaths. In 98 percent of IPV death events where there was a recorded history of abuse, women were the primary victim, abused by their male partner.
  • In these IPV deaths, the weapons used, level of premeditation and planning, escalating threat and use of overkill (excessive violence) differed for male and female offenders. These patterns were different depending on the role (predominant aggressor or primary victim) the offenders had in the abuse history of the relationship.
  • Many CAN deaths (80 percent) involved children under five years of age. Two-thirds (66 percent) of child deaths occurred in fatal physical abuse and/or grossly negligent treatment death events.
  • Of the 37 IFV death events, 92 percent (34 death events) involved offenders and/or deceased who were known to statutory services for family violence (CAN, IPV and IFV), sexual offending and/or violence against non-family members.
  • Across all types of family violence deaths analysed, Māori deceased and offenders lived in the most deprived neighbourhoods, while non-Māori deceased and offenders lived in neighbourhoods from across all levels of deprivation. Māori are over-represented as deceased and offenders in all family violence deaths."

The data is presented and discussed in relation to relevant key concepts such as separation, entrapment and overkill. The report also examines context such as the patterns of harm visible before, during and after the IPV death events, looking at how these patterns vary by gender for offenders and deceased, depending on their roles in the abuse history.

Throughout the report, the Committee has included case examples to help illustrate the points discussed. These are de-identified composite cases based on a combination of details taken from death events included in the Committee’s data set.

In her introduction, Committee Chair Dr Jacqueline Short writes,

"We know the people in this report lived in communities, they all accessed health care services and their children went to schools. To be preventative we need to consider new configurations of services and ways of responding to family violence and violence within whānau. Every day, many people are working with people experiencing or perpetrating violence. There are multiple opportunities to wrap support around child and adult victims, their families and whānau, as well as to work with fathers, men and their communities in ways that respectfully challenge them to take responsibility for their behaviour and to be the parent their family and whānau needs. We need a workforce capability lift, so we can maximise these opportunities for change. Kaupapa Māori approaches are an essential part of this reorientation." 

The Committee comments on the importance of recognising that victims separating from abusers does not necessarily mean they are safe:

"Data on female primary victims shows that separation alone does not secure their safety and, therefore, cannot be seen as the solution to stopping their partner’s violence. Sixty-seven percent of the female primary victims were killed, or their new/ex-male partners were killed, by male predominant aggressors in the time leading up to or following separation. As outlined in the Fifth Report, the safety and wellbeing of victims is dependent on a systemic response to the abusive partner’s violence."

It further notes,

"It is imperative that practitioners move away from ‘failure-to-protect’ paradigms, which assume adult victims of IPV have the choice to stop the abuse (and protect their children from CAN) by separating from their abusive partners. ... ‘Failure-to-protect’ paradigms undermine the protection of children because mothers, who fear being judged as an inadequate parent or losing their child(ren) to statutory and protection services, are less likely to disclose their experiences of IPV. Focusing on what adult victims of IPV are doing to keep their children safe ignores the level of risk and danger posed by the abusive partner’s/parent’s behaviour, and the multiple structural inequities (eg, housing and financial security) experienced by child and adult

The Committee reiterates its call for IPV and CAN to be addressed together, as highlighted in their position brief released in February 2017, Six reasons why we cannot be effective with either intimate partner violence or child abuse and neglect unless we address both together. The new report shows that 77% of the male offenders of fatal physical abuse and/or grossly negligent treatment deaths (20 offenders) were known to the police for abusing the mother of the deceased child/female partner and/or a prior female partner(s).


Family violence needs concerted response, Waatea News, 20.06.2017

Shine on the Family Violence Death Review Committee findings, Press Release: Shine, Scoop, 20.06.2017

Family violence contributes to 194 New Zealand deaths over 7-year period, NZ Herald, 20.06.2017

Family violence claimed nearly 200 lives in the last six years, Newstalk ZB, 20.06.2017

'Shocking' statistics show no improvement in domestic violence deaths, Newstalk ZB, 20.06.2017

Category: Reports