Family violence figures don’t tell whole story
Workers at the frontline of family violence say police statistics don’t paint the whole picture.
Reported family violence incidents in Auckland remained the same last year compared to 2006, but national figures went up by nearly a quarter.
Crime figures released this week show 2426 family violence incidents were reported to police in 2007.
Preventing Violence in the Home partnerships and training manager Holly Carrington says the service has seen a rise more in line with the national figures.
“We definitely have a lot more high risk cases than we used to.”
The organisation is informed every time the police attend a family violence incident so they can provide support to the victims.
Ms Carrington says they deal with 120 to 125 referrals from police a week, which has risen from 90 to 100 referrals a week.
That’s on top of increasing referrals from other agencies like Child, Youth and Family and the Auckland District Health Board.
She says it’s hard to tell if the increase is because of more awareness and reporting, or more violence.
“There’s no way to know for sure. We’ve always known the cases reported to police are a very small percentage of the overall picture of family violence.”
The rise in cases has stretched resources, and the organisation did its own fundraising to add two staff members to its advocacy team to cover the gap.
Ms Carrington says the organisation prioritises its response to cases based on risk factors, like a history of severe violence, threats to kill or serious drug use.
“Unfortunately that means when we get more referrals, we have to prioritise more and can only work with a smaller percentage of cases.”
She says family violence is still a hidden problem.
“We are nowhere near turning the corner in reducing the amount of family violence.”
Auckland Women’s Refuge chairwoman Maxine Revell says the Grey Lynn centre is always full to capacity.
“We’re pretty stretched. We don’t have enough people on the ground to manage what’s out there. It’s very rare that we are not full.”
Last year, it provided services for 255 women and children.
She says the rising cost of living puts undue pressure and stress on families.
Auckland city police communications manager Noreen Hegarty says the steady figures may be partly due to police efforts put in place in 2006.
The family safety team was set up nearly two years ago and processes for dealing with family violence complaints were revised, she says.
“There was a jump between 2005 and 2006.
“The figures reflect that between 2005 and 2007 the team was set up and the processes streamlined.”
Ms Hegarty says not all domestic violence is reported to police – some people prefer to go to other services and organisations instead.