The truth about family violence

I often talk about what a great film Once Were Warriors is, and I also tell people it’s what cemented a very wrong-headed narrative in our national psyche.

For many people, too many people, this is what family violence looks like.
For most people, too many people, the truth is more mundane and less dramatic.

Family violence and sexual abuse in New Zealand is no better than it was.
It’s in every community, in families where it is never reported, and so, continues its rise.

Because those who hold the power, and exact the worst violence, will never be held accountable. Will never let go of their power because why should they?

The lawyers, the judges, the doctors, the moguls, the sportspeople, the famed ones, the powerful ones: the violence in THEIR homes is invisible to us, it’s never reported, the police never show up, and those families are never investigated by OT/CYFS.

How do I know this?

Because every email or text I get from women who have lived in those homes, those middle-class professional homes, and who never left, or did but never reported anything because there were threats to take the kids off them, all those women, they are unseen.

There will never be any films about their lives.

And for the women I work with whose lives are reflected in this film, and the many whose lives are not, what of them?

They are constantly failed by social workers, by the police, by the justice system, by CYFS.
They are punished by structures that are supposed to protect them.
And they are sometimes failed by me.

Family violence is complex and dirty.
It’s perplexing and there are no easy solutions, because the reality is that someone is only able to get out from under by themselves and with effective support and love.

And this is New Zealand’s reality, by and large.
We raise insecure boys who grasp onto power and control.
We raise children to be polite and nice regardless of the chaos around them so that when they grow they don’t know that it’s not okay for people to treat them like shit.

We have a long long way to go.