Another ambulance at the bottom of the cliff of domestic violence

A new independent watchdog that will act as a voice for victims of domestic abuse has been launched by the former head of the Glenn Inquiry.

Ruth Herbert, a domestic abuse survivor herself, says NGO The Backbone Collective will “wrap around abused women and their children” to keep them safe and help them rebuild their lives.

“Violence against Women is New Zealand’s great shame, we have the highest rate of women experiencing violence and abuse in the developed world. So it’s high time we started building a system that is more consistent and powerful than the abuser.”

Herbert, along with violence-against-women advocate Deborah Mackenzie and policy analyst Tania Domett firmly believe the justice system is failing victims of domestic abuse “the greatest”.

“Backbone is a newly established independent body taking action to change New Zealand’s alarming violence-against-women statistics by examining the present response system through the eyes of its users – the women who have experienced violence and abuse,” said Herbert.

Each part of the integrated system would “talk to the others”, sharing information about how to best to support a woman and her family. Processes that women go through after reporting violence can include communicating with the police, GPs, safehouses and family courts as well as countless NGOs and Government departments.

It will also anonymously survey its members every month, seeing where New Zealand’s current systems are succeeding or failing, and suggesting changes to those in power, creating a positive feedback loop.

Domett said this is New Zealand’s first and only independent watchdog of the system with this monitoring function.

“We think that government and others in a position of power will start listening when hundreds, and potentially thousands, of women speak up about what needs to change.”

“The more we develop this initiative, the more impact we will be able to have. What we need most is for women to join the Backbone and have their say.”

Herbert believes that her experience of being a victim of domestic violence more than 30 years ago puts her in the best position to do the job.

Not sure if the country needs a “watchdog” when it comes to domestic violence. ?We have clearly acknowledged it as problem and have been working towards changing attitudes. ?To be uncharitable, “Backbone” looks like it will be little more than someone at a keyboard pushing out press releases and keeping the outrage going while other agencies are actually working hard to prevent and deal with domestic violence.

You have to have more than an experience of it 30 years ago to be effective. ?And to create yet another quasi tub?thumping organisation isn’t a solution to anything.


– Nichola Lawton, Stuff