20 Feb 2015

Little progress in domestic violence prevention

7:52 am on 20 February 2015

New figures show police are making little progress in the battle to prevent domestic violence.

Superintendent Tusha Penny

Superintendent Tusha Penny Photo: Supplied

The statistics, released to Radio New Zealand, are provisional, but show the country's rate of reported family violence has changed little in the last 12 months.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the OECD and on average 29 people a year are killed.

Find out more on Radio NZ Insight at 8:15am on Saturday

In 2013, police responded to 95,080 reports and the figures for last year were 94,300.

A police national manager Superintendent Tusha Penny told Insight even these figures were just the tip of the iceberg as only between 13 and 20 percent of incidents were reported.

Domestic violence was what she called "a wicked problem".

"We're not happy with that, because if we really want to tackle the problems we need to know the totality [of offending]. "

Heather Henare

Heather Henare Photo: RNZ / Philippa Tolley

Heather Henare, who has just stepped down as the head of the National Collective of Women's Refuges, believed while New Zealand was now happy to talk about how the family violence was not OK, the nation was still shying away from gritty realities.

"Although we talk about people needing to report, we actually haven't talked about what happens when we don't talk about the impact of women dying in this country and children dying," she said.

The consistent level of offending has forced police to look at outside help to improve the way they deal with domestic violence.

Superintendent Penny revealed to Insight that within the next month she plans to bring in community groups who have criticised the way officers work, and outside experts to help the force do better.

It is a plan that mirrors one used several years ago when Louise Nicholas, who accused police officers of raping her as a teenager, was brought in to change the way officers dealt with sexual abuse complaints.

"We are saying 'help us get better, help us know what to look at'.

"We're looking at overseas jurisdictions to see what's leading edge. We want to be aspirational.

"We want overseas jurisdictions coming to us in 12 to 24 months and saying 'Wow what did you do?'"

Women's Refuge sign

Photo: RNZ / Philippa Tolley

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