One in four women experience violence in their lifetime. It is costly to victims, communities and the country as a whole, and is a major barrier to gender equality.
While violence against women crosses social and cultural divides, some groups of women are at higher risk than others, including young women and Māori women. Evidence demonstrates that girls who are victims of violence are far more likely to be re‑victimised later in their lives.
Violence against women is able to be prevented.
Preventing the first incident of violence can go a long way to addressing the costs of violence against women to individuals and society. Preventing violence against girls will be an effective way of ensuring that women are free from violence throughout their lives.
Increasing the safety of women has been a priority area for the Ministry’s work for a long time. Below are some examples of our contributions:
- We contributed significantly to the development of the Domestic Violence Act (1995) (DVA), which is an important piece of legislation for women. It is because of our advice that the DVA scope was widened; police power was strengthened; and the provision for the mandatory seizure of firearms in domestic disputes was included. In the 2012 DVA review, the Ministry provided advice that ‘economic abuse’ be included in the definition of domestic violence contained within the Act.
- We are the government’s expert on violence against women, providing advice to government on how best to reduce violence. An effective government response to violence reduction, however, is not the sole responsibility of one agency. We work together with various agencies to make sure policies take into account the issue of violence against women and its impacts.
- From 2007 to 2009, we carried out a research project on ‘effective interventions for adult victim/survivors of sexual violence’. It was, at the time, the first comprehensive piece of research to be conducted on adult sexual violation in New Zealand in the previous three decades. The project provided us with New Zealand evidence and information that we didn’t have before. It is influencing policy and practice, and was cited by the Court of Appeal in its review of sentencing guidelines for rape.
- In the 2011/12 year we compiled an evidence base on sexual revictimisation to inform policy and operational work. We presented the high level findings to government and non-government stakeholders. The final report, Lightning Does Strike Twice: preventing sexual revictimisation summarises key themes from New Zealand and international research literature on the prevalence, nature and impacts of sexual revictimisation, and promising practices to prevent it.
Our aim is that women live without fear of violence. The causes for violence against women are complex, however, and change will not happen overnight. Therefore reducing violence against women and increasing women’s safety is a long-term commitment for us.
We aim to ensure that other agencies take into account issues for women, especially vulnerable women, when they design policies and initiatives. Currently, we are putting our efforts into bringing attention to how we can lessen revictimisation, while at the same time focusing more on how we can stop violence against women before it occurs.