Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Domestic Violence - everyone's problem

I have a confession to make. 

In 2008 when it was revealed that Tony Veitch had seriously assaulted his former partner Kristin Dunne-Powell, I strongly disagreed with the decision made to remove him from his position as the sports anchor on One News.  I certainly was appalled by the revelations of the assault on Ms Dunne-Powell, but I have a firm belief that actions outside the workplace should not influence your role within the workplace.

However, with the heightened public awareness of a lack of privacy in this highly media saturated society, that belief is well and firmly challenged. 

And each time there is a high profile, or any profile person, who is found to be less than what we expect in their private life, there is the pile on that destroys their public life.  Social media and MSM is reflective of how once society used to use the stocks to publicly embarrass a person who did wrong or how polite society would shun an individual and their family for doing the wrong thing.

So when Tony Veitch was put back on prime time breakfast radio, I was alarmed at the public reaction, but thought he was getting back on with life.  Then I noticed people who re-posted Veitchy Facebook posts getting a keyboard lashing in my Facebook timeline.  I decided it wasn't worth reposting his posts and tended to use the downward arrow to scoot past any of his posts that foolishly made it into my timeline from others.

But this week Veitch has once again raised the ire of the country.  It seems he has not learnt the lesson he was supposed to learn.  This has hurt not only his victim, but every victim of every domestic abuse situation because Tony Veitch has a platform, a platform he can use to effect a positive change - if he was to choose to do so - because he has the ear of the men of New Zealand.

Personally, I have never been the subject of physical abuse in a relationship, but I do count myself lucky that I did leave a controlling relationship after six months.  I'm far to independent to have some bloke monopolise my time and try to spend all my waking and sleeping moments with me.  He picked his target poorly. 

But we don't always see that when we are in the relationship, and domestic violence can happen to anyone, from any walk or station of life, rich or poor, at any age.  And New Zealand has an appalling record of domestic violence, with the police attending a domestic violence event every five minutes on average, with 14 women, 6 men and 10 children on average dying annually at the hands of a family member or partner.

Sourced from Google via shesaidyes.co.nz
And when you know someone who has lost their mum to domestic violence, it hits home a bit more. 

My friend and her siblings will go through the majority of their lives not having their mum in their life.  Helen Mead was killed by her husband when she made the decision to leave.  Her daughters were at primary and secondary school, her son a young man in his early working life.  Every time they hear of a domestic violence death, their devastation they live with daily is amplified yet again.  In If Only from TVNZ's Sunday programme, Helen's father and daughter explain the reality of domestic violence. 

I'm so proud of my friend for speaking out for her mum.  She and her grandfather have spoken out to make the positive change in breaking domestic abuse.

This week the New Zealand Herald began their series on domestic violence in New Zealand.  They opened with a piece from Tony Veitch.  I'm not going to quote Veitch at all, or link to his piece, because by now you all know that all he did was make out that the only time he lost it with Ms Dunne-Powell was the time he kicked her so hard he broke her back, how disappointed with himself he was, didn't even apologising to Ms Dunne-Powell for the pain and anguish he caused, and how hard it has been for him to rebuild his life. 

This was countered in Stuff by Ms Dunne-Powell's father chastising Veitch for not apologising to his daughter or acknowledging that the incident was not a one off, but part of a pattern of physical abuse throughout the relationship.  And that fact is record - the list of how Veitch assaulted Ms Dunne-Powell over the course of their relationship is public record and appalling.

Many other blog posts from others have preceded mine, mostly in support of Ms Dunne-Powell and also chastising Veitch for attempting to portray himself as a victim and missing the opportunity to make a positive change to help break the cycle of domestic abuse in New Zealand.  Mine will probably only add to that.

But in today's NZ Herald I was heartened by an article, with a video, Family violence: Breaking the cycle of 30 years of abuse which focused on Jeremey Eparaima explaining how his cycle of violence began for him, how in each new relationship he escalated from verbal threats to pushing, then slapping, then punching and kicking, to choking and holding a knife at his partner's throat.  He explained how to the outside world he was an all round good guy, successful at work, popular on the rugby field, who abused his partners, terrorised his children and never was charged once by the police, despite the neighbours ringing the cops on a number of occasions. 

He talked about the regret, the self-loathing, the promises of not to do it again, how it would be good, and then his rage would return.  He talks about the stats of women and children killed through domestic violence, and believes that fact that he didn't add to the statistics was not through good management of his behaviour.

Mr Eparaima talks about how he accidentally ended up at an anger management course supporting a mate who he thought really had a problem, and then realised he had big issues of his own.  He then re-enrolled to start the following course - and that's how he began to stop the cycle of abuse he had carried on from his own childhood, how he is now giving talks and advising new police recruits about the effects of domestic violence and how to recognise it.

This quote from the article sums up where Mr Eparaima is with his family situation currently:

He has apologised to his former partners -- and his kids. He will be making amends with them until the day he dies and feels thankful that he has relationships with them and is able to be a grandfather to their children.

What is the difference between Veitch's piece and this article on Mr Eparaima?  The difference is ownership and acknowledgement and making constructive change to stop the cycle of abuse.

Kyle McDonald has an opinion piece in today's NZ Herald about domestic violence too: Family violence: Kyle MacDonald: Domestic violence is a male problem.  Kyle is a person I respect for his stand on mental health, rape culture, feminism, and domestic violence issues - I respect him, but I don't always agree with him.  I don't think domestic violence is a male problem, because women are capable of inflicting it as well, so therefore I think it is everyone's problem. 

Yes, men are more likely to inflict domestic violence, and women are more likely to be on the receieving end, and these men need to change their behaviour and take responsibility for it - no argument there - but that doesn't mean that this isn't a problem for women to be part of the solution. 

Sometimes a woman is the catalyst for the man to change - by leaving and telling her story, which is so much easier said than done - read Family Violence: 'He held a chainsaw to my neck' for one woman's story of trying to leave an abusive relationship, which contains the some traits many women's stories of leaving have.  However, lets not give up on the capacity of women to do this, to leave, to initiate a break in the cycle.

But men like Jeremy Eparaima changing how they behave and speaking out are essential.  Having beds available at Women's Refuge helps (remember that time the Christchurch one closed because it couldn't access government funding?).  Having police who will take action helps.  Having a justice system that will protect the victim helps.  Being an aware friend or neighbour or member of society helps.

I like what Mr Eparaima had to say today:

           "Stopping family violence is everyone's job. It is everyone's job to go next door if you hear something
             going on; if you see something in a carpark it is up to you to go and make sure everything is okay.
          "Lifting awareness is the only way we're going to stop this epidemic.  There needs to be a change."

Yes, New Zealand is below the standard on domestic violence and finding solutions.  We need to keep talking and implementing solutions and helping people to break the cycle of domestic abuse.

Like others have said earlier this week, Tony Veitch had the opportunity to use his platform for making a positive change in the lives of other abusers by helping them see the way to break the cycle of domestic abuse.

He didn't.

So Tony Veitch, you failed the standard.

Where can you find help if you are in a domestic abuse situation?
It's Not OK - Information line 0800 456 450
Women's Refuge - Free national crisisline operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843
Shine - free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633
Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisisline 24/7 0800 742 584
White Ribbon NZ

Help for men wanting to break the cycle of domestic abuse:
If you are experiencing or witnessing violence, or want to change your own behaviour, you can ask for help. It can be hard, but getting involved or reaching out for help for yourself could save a life.
• It's Not OK information line 0800-456-450 for information about services that can help men.
• Shine runs a No Excuses stopping-violence programme for men. Ring the helpline on 0508-744-633 to find a programme near you or even if you just want to talk to someone and talk through your options.
National Network of Stopping Violence

Thanks to the NZ Herald for a great series and the help info.