Data isn’t the solution — can we stop with the data obsession
The high rates of domestic violence in New Zealand. Do we really need more data or will it just tell us what we already know?
This may shock people but New Zealand has the highest domestic violence rate in OECD countries and despite many years of trying to shed itself of that ranking, domestic violence rates remain stubbornly high. It’s also despite the fact that many courageous women, have over many years, worked tirelessly to keep women and children safe but still the domestic violence rates continue to track upwards.
Here’s some statistics, and it isn’t pretty.
Jackie Blue, New Zealand’s Women’s Rights Commissioner states,
“Domestic Violence is New Zealand’s leading human rights issue”
She’s not wrong. At the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva she outlined the decades of “strategies”, legislation, “ministerial groups” and “ministerial inquiries” and “dedicated bodies” that have tried and failed to fix a very broken system. I would go further than that and say that when it comes to domestic violence, our society is broken. I know about many of these initiatives as I was involved, one way or another, in many of them.
I applaud Jackie Blue and Jan Logie for naming this heinous issue for what it is, our most insidious breach of human rights but I was interested to see that Blue focused allot on the data stating:
“Data collection is haphazard, with different methods used by police, justice, health, and community providers like Women’s Refuge”
This statement really got me thinking. There may not have been an in-depth study done into the rates since 2003 but if there was, would it really tell us anything we don’t already know? I doubt it.
I think this is because as I look back at my years working for the New Zealand government, at times on the domestic violence portfolio, I remember the boxes, and boxes, and boxes of reports, inquires and project documents that focused on trying to fix the domestic violence problem. The New Zealand Family Violence Clearing House has done a stellar job on researching and providing resources on this complex problem. If you were to put all the research papers etc. from Women’s Refuge, the Family Violence Death Review Committee, Police and the Ministry of Social Development you would have a very large room, full of paper.
Just because they aren’t collecting the information in the same way, doesn’t mean they haven’t all reach the same conclusion. If you took the time to review all the information and synthesized it, you would find very common themes, “all roads lead to Rome”!!
I have not been in the country for over four years. My last job in New Zealand was working for the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuge (NCIWR) and this is what I know to be true about domestic violence in New Zealand.
When the All Blacks (our national rugby team) loses, domestic violence rates go up.
Over Christmas, domestic violence rates go through the roof.
People say, why don’t women just leave, but we know that when they leave, they are at their greatest risk of being murdered.
Women don’t leave out of fear for themselves and their children.
If the perpetrator attends a Men’s Stopping Violence Course and doesn’t complete the course, there are little to no repercussions for him.
I could go on, the list is endless. In 2014 the “Owen Glen Inquiry” released it’s final report. The final report identified alcohol as a leading contributor to domestic violence and yes it is. Perhaps because of the sponsor of the report, Owen Glen, it didn’t go to the core of the issue which is, the prevailing New Zealand men’s negative attitude towards women.
We do not need anymore data or statistics to tell us what the problems are. What is needed is some validation of what is known, then get in the room with past and present victims of domestic violence and find the answers. Those women who are experiencing or have experienced the violence are the best problem solvers we have. They have already been telling us for many years, what the problems are, now enlist them to find the solutions.
Stop getting the supposed “experts” in a room to try and wrack their brains to come up the solution. Stop wasting all that time collecting information that tells us what we already know. Get out into the community, enlist the community into a process that allows you to keep going, iterating, till you find the solution.
And while you are at it, test an assumption for me. I believe that the strong, silent male archetype that prevails in New Zealand is directly linked to men’s violence rates and the high rates of male youth suicide that New Zealand is also struggling with.
Then you might just see this complex problem really start to unravel and in that unraveling you might just find a long term sustainable solution.