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1 ural RECEI VED! 2 7 FEB 2008 JUSTICE AND ELECTORAL SUBMISSION TO THE JUSTICE AND ELECTORAL SELECT COMMITTEE on the 5 MAR 2009 DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (ENHANCING SAFETY) BILL By RURAL WOMEN NEW ZEALAND 27 FEBRUARY 2009 Contact Person: Noeline Holt Executive Officer Rural Women New Zealand PO Box Thorndon Wellington Phone: (04) / To

2 Submission of the Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Bill By Rural Women New Zealand Executive Summary Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) supports the overall policy aim of the Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Bill (the Bill) to strengthen the provisions of safety, as intended in the principles of the Domestic Violence Act 1995 (the Act). A strong criminal justice response from Police and criminal courts to protect victims of family violence, and help prevent them from becoming just another statistic, is vital. The Act, along with any proposed changes to it and to other related legislation, clearly impact on all women and their families. Statistics in New Zealand show that family violence is part of the entire spectrum of New Zealand's society, appearing across all socio economic ethnic and age groups. In by far the majority of reported family violence incidents, women and children are the primary victims. For rural women, there are additional inherent risk factors for the occurrence of domestic violence, as well as additional risk factors in choosing to take action to deal with violencel. Internationally, rural women are considered to be a marginalised population2, and in New Zealand, rural Maori, elderly women and the increasing number of immigrants and refugees in rural areas, can be seen as further marginalised. The Act must be able to be applied consistently across all populations. It is therefore vital that the voice of rural women is heard in considering the proposed changes made by this Bill. RWNZ notes that there are already considerable problems in the implementation of the Act, and that for rural women these problems are exacerbated, particularly being able to access information and support services for victims of violence, delivery and access of programmes for offenders, and ensuring safety for both women and children with respect to the process of obtaining and enforcing protection orders. Thus the focus of our submission is on the implementation of the provisions of the Bill as they are likely to affect rural women, and the support services and infrastructure needed to combat domestic violence in New Zealand's rural communities. Background a RWNZ represents the interests of all rural families in New Zealand. The organisation has around 4,000 members in 300 branches located throughout the country. Since 1925 RWNZ has been providing rural women with a national voice on rural issues and a local framework for these opportunities. Its aim is "Strengthening Rural Communities". RWNZ makes submissions on issues relevant to its four portfolio areas of Health, Education, Land and Social issues. i Supported by international research such as Neil Websdale, in 'Rural Wornen Battering and the Justice System: an Ethnography'. 2 UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, Nov 2007 Rural Women New Zealand 1

3 7. In preparing this submission, a copy of the Bill was distributed to members of RWNZ's "rapid response" team and national executive, and their responses were incorporated in the submission. 8. RWNZ acknowledges the consultation which occurred in 2008 on proposed changes to the Domestic Violence Act 1995, and appreciates the present opportunity to comment on the draft Bill. 9. RWNZ wishes to be heard in support of this submission. Implications of the Bill for Rural Women 10, RWNZ is disappointed to note that the focus of the Bill is restricted to the response of the criminal justice system only. RWNZ welcomed the opportunity in 2008 to make a submission3 on possible changes to the Act. In our Submission at that time we sought further improvements to the Domestic Violence Act, in particular: The widening of the 'definition' of violence to include psychological and other aspects Recognition that children who witness abuse are themselves victims of abuse Improving the range of services available to rural people, as rural women are isolated from services already Improved funding for those agencies that support services for the victims and rehabilitation services to offenders The Bill's provisions do not address these concerns. 11. RWNZ in general supports the proposed changes to the Act regarding enforcement, including the introduction of Police issued on the spot protection orders (where there is insufficient evidence to arrest someone). In principal, we also support the removal of the alleged violent person from the home, to give the victim a period of safety to consider future options. We however have a number of concerns regarding the practical day to day interpretation of the proposed changes for rural women. 12. The current Act already has a number of issues in its implementation. For rural women the most significant are issues of accessing information and support services for victims of violence, delivery and access of programmes for offenders and ensuring safety for both women and children with respect to the process of obtaining and enforcing protection orders. These issues are equally important under the provisions of this Bill. 13. Family violence dynamics are complex, and research shows that a woman's decision to disclose her situation, or to seek help, or to remove herself and/or her children from that situation, is usually an excruciatingly difficult one4. Provision of relevant information about legal and support options available is considered essential for her empowerment to take action. Research also shows that if a woman does choose to separate, this is the time that she and her family are most at risk from escalating violence. Thus, safety is of primary concern. However, feedback from Women's Refuges and Stopping Violence programmes also suggests that women leaving violent relationships frequently 3 Rural Women Submission to the Proposed Changes to the Domestic Violence Act 1995, and other Relevant Legislation, February For example, see Busch and Robertson, 'Living at the Cutting Edge', 2007 Rural Women New Zealand 2

4 a have lost any sense of safety and danger, and are often not in a position to make safe choices for themselves or their children. Police intervention through on the spot protection orders may alleviate this situation. 14.The tension between ensuring safety on the one hand, and empowering victims of violence on the other, is vital in the discussions relating to protection orders, and how much choice a victim of violence should be given at different stages of the process. Where there is such a tension, it seems clear that safety must be the priority. Particular issues that affect the safety of rural women are: Existing situational risk factors for family violence (e.g. isolation, lack of alternative housing, economic situation) The process of assessing risk to women and children who does the risk assessment, and where? Ensuring that interventions are timely and appropriate, and increase safety, not just in the short term Maintaining confidentiality (especially of safe accommodation) Access to resources, support, legal protection and appropriate programmes 15. Disclosure or detection of family violence experienced by women and children in a rural context, along with empowerment to act, may be inhibited by a number of specific things, including: Isolation from services (e.g. health, Work and Income, support NGOs) who might be expected to pick up on problems. Such isolation can be geographical or social (e.g. transient populations such as beneficiaries who have moved to rural areas for cheaper living, and transient farm managers, workers and migrants etc, who have not built strong networks). Long established cohesive rural communities (e.g. women farmers, or partners of farmers). In such communities, providers and consumers of services are often the same people, support professionals, law enforcement etc likely to be part of the social circle. Division of roles. A rural family may rely on one or both partners to carry out specific farming duties. Transport difficulties. A rural family may only have one vehicle, which may be in use for work. There may be little or no public transport. 16. In rural areas, due to the erosion and/or distancing of many basic services, the burden of risk assessment and management lies on police, schools and health providers, most of whom are unlikely to have specialist training in family violence dynamics, and who may have social and/or professional relationships with the offender (thus making them unsafe as risk assessors). This situation puts rural women applying for a protection order, and achieving safety and confidentiality in doing so, at particular risk, Rural Women New Zealand therefore recommends caution in consideration of any role for Police in risk assessment, when making changes around protection orders. 17. Accessing services because of geographic isolation is significant, not only because of the paucity of specialist services, but also because of transport difficulties and emergency response time frames. The latter is particularly relevant for the woman who is in a violent situation or who already has a protection order, and is theoretically encouraged to call the police whenever there is a breach of the order; in reality, the time gap between call and response could place a woman in a situation of greater, rather than less, danger, and many may choose not to do so. Rural Women New Zealand 3

5 18. For many rural areas there is little consistent presence of support services (NZ Citizen's Advice Bureau notes that they may be the only type of NGO support service in a rural town, and have difficulty making appropriate referrals). Resources (including specialist training) need to be provided in rural areas, and committed consistently in the long term (for example, provision of certainty for violence intervention programmes). Education and information provision is seen by RWNZ as an essential factor in ensuring safety as well as empowerment for victims of domestic violence. In relation to the proposed changes to ensure compliance of offenders in attending violence intervention programmes (which RWNZ supports), this appears to be of little use unless there is realistic access to the programmes for offenders in rural areas Thus, while being able to issue on the spot protection orders and remove the alleged offender from a domestic violence situation appears a sound solution, there are many practical implications for the rural family which are not recognised in this Bill. In summary, these are the lack of support services for the victim and the offender in rural communities, the great distances from Police stations and therefore longer response times to a domestic violence incident, and for many families their livelihood is the farm and its livestock and removing the person who may be the main worker creates additional problems. For these reasons, RWNZ cautions that simply relying on Police issued on the spot protection orders and the immediate removal of an alleged offender needs to be supported by improved services. RWNZ supports the strengthened provisions to arrest people who breach protection orders. RWNZ supports the changes to the Sentencing Act 2002 which will enable the criminal courts to consider whether a protection order should also be made on behalf of the victim when sentencing someone who is convicted of domestic violence, and the victim does not object to the making of the order. We also support the requirement that the defendant will be required to attend a compulsory stopping violence programme if a protection order is made. RWNZ supports the amendments to the Bail Act 2000 that, when the Police arrest a person for alleged domestic violence offences, they may impose bail conditions that will provide more explicit protection for children. Rural Women New Zealand 4

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