De aling with dome s tic violence
B y J a n i e S m i t h When it comes to fi ghting domestic violence, senior sergeant Vaughn Graham knows it’s a problem the police alone can’t solve.
That’s why a large part of his role as family violence coordinator involves working with other social agencies to tackle the issue on all fronts.
“We look at the whole picture. Family violence is an issue police are passionate about,” he says.
Based at Auckland central station, Mr Graham is the coordinator for the whole Auckland area, a role he took on in July.
For the past three years he supervised the Auckland family safety team, made up of the police and agencies that deal with family violence.
Originally from New South Wales, he investigated several family violence-related homicides and decided to carry on in the field.
“It’s one of the more challenging things to deal with.”
Police are called to around 5000 domestic violence incidents in Auckland city each year and reports increase around Christmas, when families are most vulnerable.
“The full extent is difficult to determine because of under-reporting,” Mr Graham says.
“People are too scared or reluctant for other reasons to discuss what’s happening. A lot of it goes back to shame, embarrassment or fear.
“We accept we’re only dealing with a smaller percentage of the family violence occurring.”
Police have developed more resources for dealing with family violence.
They include a new report form filled out by police at the scene which has body maps for marking injuries.
A dedicated family violence court is held three days a week at the Auckland District Court with its own judge, where offenders are offered help to deal with their issues.
Police have Asian, north African, Maori and Pacific Island liaison officers and representatives to help educate different communities.
Mr Graham also trains front line staff.
“It’s a fairly busy area in terms of work being done on investigations and attendance at scenes. The majority of the work is done by front line staff.”
Domestic violence can encom- pass a range of offences, from homicide to verbal disputes between family members.
A new family violence package put out nationally by the police prosecution service helps clarify what charges are appropriate for offences.
But for police to lay charges, people need to report violence.
“The message we are keen for people to pick up is if you’ve seen something or are aware of something, don’t take it for granted that the police know about it. “ If in doubt, ring the police.” With the holiday season approaching, he advises families to prepare in advance to reduce stress.
Preventing Violence in the Home executive director Jane Drumm says the organisation has a long standing working relationship with the Auckland city police.
“They’ve done a lot of work to ensure they work closely with community groups so we can all provide different perspectives on cases and use our skills to ensure we get the best results.”
Police call Preventing Violence in the Home whenever they make a domestic violence arrest so the organisation can provide support for the victims.
To report or discuss domestic violence contact the police, Preventing Violence in the Home on 0508-384-357 or Women’s Refuge crisis line on 0800-456-450.
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