Chapter 2
Understanding family violence

New Zealand-specific features of family violence

2.35The following features of family violence have been identified as of specific or particular concern in New Zealand.

2.36First, Māori are disproportionately represented in family violence deaths, as both offenders and victims.65 The FVDRC considers this is a matter of significant concern and suggests that “patterns of normalisation of violence” revealed by the regional reviews may be “a legacy of colonisation and institutional racism”.66 It states:67

Family violence is marked by structural inequities (structural relationships of power, domination and privilege). Poverty, social exclusion [footnote omitted], disability, heterosexism, gender inequality and the legacy left behind by colonisation also impact on people’s experiences of abuse and the resources available to them in responding to that abuse. The difficulties victims of family violence face in keeping themselves safe can be particularly extreme for some Māori women. Many are dealing with serious levels of victimisation and social entrapment, extreme economic deprivation and high levels of historical and intergenerational trauma affecting, not just themselves, but their whānau and support networks as well.

2.37The Ministry of Justice, in Strengthening New Zealand’s Legislative Response to Family Violence, suggests that “compounded disadvantage rather than individual risk factors may underlie the risks of wāhine and tamariki Māori being victims of family violence and tāne Māori being apprehended and convicted of a family violence offence”.68
2.38Second, alcohol and drug use and abuse is strongly correlated with family violence in New Zealand, and research demonstrates that alcohol escalates aggressive incidents.69 Alcohol was identified in 14 of the 23 cases we considered in which victims of family violence killed abusers.
2.39The Ministry of Justice also identifies that Pacific people and ethnic migrant communities experience higher rates of IPV than the general population.70 These groups can face distinct socio-economic, cultural and practical barriers that may make it more difficult to seek help. Other groups of people identified as being particularly vulnerable to family violence include older people, who may be at risk of IPV or financial abuse by other family members, and disabled people, who may rely on others for day-to-day care, increasing the risk of family violence.71

2.40We note below that coercive control is a helpful way to understand the entrapment many victims of family violence experience. Family violence may, however, take other forms that are particularly prevalent in some cultures. The FVDRC has noted that there is little information in New Zealand about forced marriage and “honour”-based violence, and none of the cases in our sample appear to involve these forms of violence. It seems that such violence may entail elements of coercion, but we would welcome submissions on its nature, characteristics and prevalence.

2.41We welcome feedback on features of family violence that may be specific or particularly significant in New Zealand.

65Family Violence Death Review Committee, above n 2, at 49.
66At 81.
67At 80. The footnote omitted from this excerpt records that Māori children are twice as likely as European/Pākehā children to grow up in poor households, in connection with which the Committee cites F Cram “Poverty” in T McIntosh and M Mulholland (eds) Maori and Social Issues (Huia, 2001, Wellington) (at n 113).
68Ministry of Justice, above n 1, at 14.
69“Reducing the impact of alcohol on family violence”, above n 59, at 4.
70Ministry of Justice, above n 1, at 15.
71At 15.