Myths about the smacking bill

I’ve seen many claims made about the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Bill, often referred to as the smacking bill or anti-smacking bill. More have appeared on Kiwiblog today in discussions about a news report on how the bill has been working – Fewer parents being investigated despite ‘anti-smacking law’.

For example kowtow:

Eight parents prosecuted in the 5 years since the legislation was brought in,seven for smacking the head or face…….

so not one of those cases was a serious “assault”.

In the same period how many children were murdered by a “care giver or guardian”?

The bill was foisted on us on that pretext……hasn’t stopped the dangerous stuff.

And ‘dime’:

the difference being they sold us the anti-smacking law like it was going to stop all violence towards kids. just your typical lefty lie

That’s typical opponent exaggeration.

Sue Bradford’s Third reading speech had no promises of stopping all violence against kids. She said “Law change alone is not enough”.

What we have been simply seeking to do is remove a defence that has allowed some parents to get away with quite badly beating their children and, most significantly, that has stopped police from taking action in many situations of violence against children.

She states one of the primary goals was so “children will finally receive the same legal protection as adults”.

She says more needs doing, and the law change needs monitoring to make sure it works ok.

The full speech makes it clear what was claimed (and it doesn’t claim many things that have been blamed on it):

Bradford, Sue: Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Bill — Third Reading


SUE BRADFORD (Green) : I move, That the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Bill be now read a third time. Nearly 2 years ago my member’s bill to repeal section 59 of the Crimes Act was drawn from the parliamentary ballot. Although I was certainly well aware of the controversial nature of the issue that the bill deals with, after facing hostile audiences when on various election platforms around the country, little did I realise back then the full extent of the difficulties that were yet to come.

I came to Parliament after many years of working for the rights of unemployed people and beneficiaries, and was very used to our groups and ourselves being seen as outcasts—koretake, blamed, and despised. I was used to being physically assaulted when on street protests and, often enough, arrested as well. However, none of that prepared me for the level of vitriol and for the ugly lies and threats cast at myself and others, simply for standing up for the right of our babies and our children to live lives free from violence.

I thought that in a country that prides itself on being a great place to bring up kids, and where people from all parts of society talk constantly of their love for children, it would be like motherhood and apple pie to work for a law change that benefits children. Instead, the debate over whether to get rid of the defence of reasonable force for the purpose of correction has shown quite starkly that some people believe that the right of parents to legally beat their children is so important that they have stooped to threats of violence and other abhorrent tactics. However, it has in the end been a wonderful thing that despite the ugliness of some aspects of the public discourse, so many members of this Parliament from almost every party have chosen to support my bill in its amended form.

I acknowledge and thank all involved, from all sides of the House, for their support within this outbreak of consensus politics, and I regret, on behalf of Peter Dunne and Judy Turner, that this bill has seen their party break apart because someone called Mr Gordon Copeland is so dedicated to fighting for the right to beat children that he has abandoned his long-term allegiances.

The bill in front of us tonight fulfils my original goal of removing the defence of reasonable force, while at the same time dealing with some of the fears expressed at different times by both the Labour and National caucuses, and by some members of the public. The Labour-led amendment that came out of our select committee consideration of the bill is aimed at reassuring parents that they will not be prosecuted if they use reasonable force when doing things like putting a child in a room for time out, forcibly removing a child from danger, or restraining a child from causing damage to people or property. I am aware that some lawyers believe that this new provision may be misused as a legal defence for having hit a child as part of control, and because of this I believe that its use as a defence in future must be monitored to ensure that it is not used this way in practice.

The second significant amendment to the bill has been the one put forward just 2 weeks ago by Peter Dunne, which was agreed to by both Labour and National through John Key’s leadership. It encapsulates within the bill the long-established police discretion regarding the action they take when deciding whether to prosecute in very minor cases where there is no public interest in proceeding. This new provision simply affirms in law what is standard police practice under their existing prosecution guidelines, but I think it is useful in helping to calm some of the unnecessary fears that have been driven up by the bill’s opponents.

Neither the select committee, myself, nor anyone else supporting this bill has ever intended that all parents who ever lightly or occasionally hit their children should be subject automatically to investigation and police prosecution. What we have been simply seeking to do is remove a defence that has allowed some parents to get away with quite badly beating their children and, most significantly, that has stopped police from taking action in many situations of violence against children.

Some of the most powerful submissions to the select committee came from paediatricians, who talked about the injuries they see constantly and about how most of those injuries are inflicted in the name of child discipline. Only last week we were made all too aware of the case of the 3-year-old Ōtara boy who was killed as a result of beatings inflicted in the name of toilet training. The police officer who led the investigation, Detective Senior Sergeant Richard Middleton, said, among other things: “… what I will say is keep your hands off your kids. Don’t hit them. It’s not on. There’s no need for it.” I think it is a red-letter day when a senior police officer feels able to make such an unequivocal statement in the national media. Police, like paediatricians, see the daily consequences of what happens when people assault their kids just to teach them a lesson.

Some people say that smacking or spanking is not violence. I ask them: “What else is it? If a burly gang member, much larger than you, smacked you in the pub tonight, what would you call that?”. Some people say that the deaths of children like James Whakaruru or the little Ōtara boy have nothing to do with this bill. I say that they have everything to do with it. There is a spectrum of violence used against our babies and children, and one person’s light, occasional tap is another person’s beating or shaking to death—all in the name of so-called correction.

I have been much criticised by the bill’s opponents for my unwillingness to support the early amendment put up by Mr Chester Borrows, which attempted to define the nature and level of force that parents could legitimately use against their kids. I simply reiterate that to support any such definition would make things even worse for children, by having the State define acceptable violence and by entrenching the legal and social concept that it is OK to beat children but it is not OK to beat adults.

It is important that as we finally vote this bill into law we also look forward to what else needs doing. Law change alone is not enough. To be really effective, the bill we are passing tonight needs to be accompanied by a well-planned public information campaign that tells people the intentions and implications of the law in a way that does not make people feel frightened or guilty. The Government also needs to make an ongoing commitment to maintain and extend the SKIP programme, so that strong, clear messages about alternatives to physical discipline are available to all parents around the country.

Funding for community groups that support children, parents, and families needs to be increased. We need research on, and monitoring of, the attitudinal change that I feel sure will result from this new law—as it already has, I think, during the 2 years of public debate. The interpretations of the new law, and its implementation by the courts, police, and Child, Youth and Family, all need to be monitored well. I welcome the 2-year review that was instigated by the Minister David Benson-Pope. I also strongly recommend that the Government works closely with the relevant non-governmental organisations, following the bill’s passage, on an action plan to ensure that the best possible outcomes are achieved for children and families.

In conclusion, I would like to take a moment to thank some of those who have played such a critical role in championing and supporting this bill in getting it to the stage it is at tonight. An enormous number of organisations have worked tirelessly for reform over the last 2 years, including Plunket, Barnardos, Unicef, Save the Children, the Families Commission, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, EPOCH, Every Child Counts, the Body Shop, the Child Poverty Action Group, Parents Centres, and many, many others. I am sorry I cannot name them all.

Many individuals have also played a key role—people like Beth Wood, the Ritchies in Hamilton, Mike Coleman, Deborah Morris-Travers, Megan Payne, Ian Hassall, Cindy Kiro, Kaye Crowther, Robert Ludbrook, Sonja Hogan, Rhonda Pritchard, and David Kenkel. I salute all of them and apologise to all the many others I do not have time to mention tonight.

I also say a special thanks to the Reverends Anthony Dancer and Margaret Mayman, and to all the other clergy involved in hosting the moving ecumenical service that a number of us attended in the cathedral up the road a couple of weeks ago, for their assistance in mobilising Christians in support of this bill. I also acknowledge the huge amount of work done by the MPs and officials involved in the very long select committee process, including the sterling efforts of our Parliamentary Counsel Office adviser, Elizabeth Grant.

Finally, I say a huge thanks to all the MPs who stood firm in support of this bill during some fairly dark days, including Helen Clark and the Labour caucus, the entire Māori Party caucus, all my own Green Party colleagues, Peter Dunne, Brian Donnelly, Doug Woolerton, and Katherine Rich. Those members are all heroes in their commitment to a vision of a country where children will finally receive the same legal protection as adults. I also acknowledge the lead that John Key took in working to find a way through a seeming impasse, so that his party, too, could lend its full weight to the mana of this bill.

But, in the end, this bill is not about us here at Parliament—or, indeed, about adults at all. It is about our children, and what I believe is their God-given right to grow up secure in the love of their families, valued as equal citizens to the rest of us, and without the constant threat of legalised violence being used against them.

That speech should be shown whenever any outlandish claims are made about the bill.

Jackie Blue: Police can’t stop abuse alone

Police can’t stop abuse alone

From the outside I had everything going for me. I was a young GP. I had great friends and a loving family. My boyfriend had moved in with me.

But the reality was far from fairytale.

I will never forget the day that finally spurred me to call the police. We’d been at a friend’s barbecue. It was something as small as people asking me about my job. That set him off. As we drove into our carport, he started hitting me as hard as he could.

That was the last time. For two years I was in a violent relationship. It wasn’t every week or every day. It was random and unpredictable. He’d belittle me and put me down. I felt too ashamed to ask for help. That was the great irony of my life. As a doctor, I was there to help people with their problems, but I couldn’t even help myself.

That’s the sad and brutal reality for too many women. Just over a week ago I joined with thousands of others to march against sexual violence in the wake of the Roast Busters scandal.

Unfortunately, that case is not an isolated incident. As I was write this, media are reporting that a woman was stabbed in Lower Hutt and a Northland man was convicted of 39 sex and violence charges spanning two decades.

One in three women will experience partner violence at some point in their lives. Only 20 per cent ever report it. This should not be tolerated. We have all the evidence and research. We know what works. We need action.

We have some excellent initiatives like the violence intervention programmes run by every DHB in the country. It is helping to reduce violence by aiming to screen all women aged 16 years and over for family violence and making sure those who disclose get the support they need.

Dr Kim McGregor and Rape Prevention Education are doing excellent work in our schools to educate our young people. It would be great to see more resources made available to roll out their programmes to a wide group of young people.

But what is urgently needed is a strategy to ensure there is a co-ordinated approach. The National Sexual Violence Prevention Plan that was scuppered in 2009 needs to be urgently reinstated.

But this isn’t something we can simply leave to Parliament and the police and hope they solve the problem for us. It comes down to what we do as individuals, families and communities. That is where the change needs to take place. Fundamentally, it’s about each of us taking responsibility for the problem. When someone is in a violent relationship, or they’re the victim of sexual violence, there will always be a bystander. Someone who sees the warning signs. Someone who knows what’s going on. We need them to speak up. We need them to tell someone.

Most men are not violent, but most violence against women is perpetrated by men. That’s why we need to support our men, because they’re the role models for our children. We need them to be part of the solution.

Today is White Ribbon Day. It’s a fantastic campaign raising awareness of violence against women.

This year we’re asking men to take a pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence towards women. Whether you are a husband, father, son, brother, uncle or granddad you all have women in your life that you wouldn’t want to see subjected to violence.

Make a stand and take the pledge.

Women in violent relationships are waiting to be asked. No one asked me. So I kept it to myself. Make sure the women you know no longer have to stay silent.

Dr Jackie Blue is the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, a former MP and the mother of two girls.

Dr Russel Wills’ call to men for less violence

Children’s Commissioner Dr Russel Wills has published an open letter marking White Ribbon anti-violence day.

To those it concerns,

Do your children see you get angry and shout? Have they watched you lash out at their mum? Do they cower in the corner when you enter a room? Are they frightened of you?

It doesn’t have to be like this for your children. It shouldn’t be like this.

When you are violent it always affects your kids. It changes their development and it changes how well they’ll do in life. When they grow up they are more likely to be violent themselves, or be victims of violence. They are more likely to have major mental health problems, drug and alcohol problems and physical problems.

As a pediatrician – I’ve seen your kids in my clinic. Kids like the four-year-old girl with a developmental age of two. And like the little boy who wasn’t learning at school; not because of ADHD (like everyone thought) but because he was terrified that when he got home mum would be hurt or dead.

Your kids still love you but they want you to change. I think you love your kids too. I think you want your kids’ lives to be better than yours. I’ve seen dads turn their lives around because they love their kids and they love their kids’ mum. You can too.

It’s not too late. I’m asking you to step up and get help right now. I know this is not easy but take a positive step for the sake of your kids.

You could start by taking the White Ribbon pledge to promise to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence towards women. You could talk to someone you trust about your behaviour and ask for help. You could call the Family Violence Information Line on 0800 456 450.

Be the kind of dad your kids would love you to be. They want you to walk into a room and give them a cuddle, or play with them or talk about their day. They want to be happy to see you.

Most men in New Zealand are not violent. Become one of them.

Yours Sincerely

Dr Russell Wills


Addressing family violence

On Q + A yesterday Susan Wood interviews former Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier on family violence.

Boshier talked of three things he things he thinks need focussing on to address family violence:

  1. Attitudinal change
    “We’ve managed to do this with drink-driving.  We’ve managed to do it with smoking.  We can do it with family violence, and we’ve seen some top rugby players beginning to come out and acknowledge”.
  2. Give women options
    The second thing is we’ve got to give women other options.  We’ve got to enable them to feel that there is something that they can do and somewhere they can go.
  3. Men being accountable
    “We’re beginning to see it more and more, men being accountable, talking, acknowledging and making change.  And we have seen  men who have been violent in the past who have come out and said, I no longer want to be violent, so were beginning to get men talking about it”.


SUSAN WOOD: Do you think we will get there?  Do you think we will get there in a generation or two with domestic violence?

PETER We will make change.  Look, the fact that I’m here today speaking about this – this wouldn’t have happened 20 years ago.  And the fact that so many mayors, people are our ambassadors- John Key, Len Brown, Ruben Wiki, the famous rugby league player, are ambassadors, this wouldn’t have happened years ago.  I’m ever the optimist.

We need more optimists like Peter.

Men are not the only perpetrators of violent behaviour, but they are more violent and can be more physically damaging.

But it needs to be said that some women are also violent. And many women are non-physically abusive.

In probably the majority of cases both partners contribute to violence, by their attitudes, by their actions and by their inactions.

We need more work on attitudes, more and better options, and being accountable.

And we need to learn to understand each other better.


Full transcript:


SUSAN A very good morning to you.

JUDGE PETER BOSHIER – Former Principal Family Court Judge
 Good morning.

SUSAN This campaign is about men speaking to other men.  Is there any evidence that men are listening – that there is less family violence?


PETER  Well, I think what were doing is beginning to talk about it much more.  Unfortunately, only about 20% of family violence ever surfaces.  Theres an enormous, enormous amount that hasnt been talked about, so one of the real-
SUSAN How did you get that number?  Thats a huge amount we are not talking about.

PETER It is.  It is a huge amount.  Well, people are often unwilling to seek help.  They feel locked in, they feel unable to share it, so one of the real purposes of White Ribbon is to flush it out and to get people talking about it.

SUSAN But you’re talking to the men, and so often in these cases we are talking about, generally here, women as the victims of it, and the trouble is they are tied up.  They are tied with children; they are tied up economically, aren’t they, so often?  How do you break that?  How do you get these women to speak out?

PETER  Well, I think there are three things – three things that I would focus on for change in New Zealand.  And first of all, its attitudinal change.  We’ve managed to do this with drink-driving.  We’ve managed to do it with smoking.  We can do it with family violence, and we’ve seen some top rugby players beginning to come out and acknowledge.  The second thing is weve got to give women other options.  We’ve got to enable them to feel that there is something that they can do and somewhere they can go.

SUSAN And what are those sort of options?  I know well get to the third one, but what sort of things specifically do you need to give women?

PETER  I think there are two things.  The first is if youre in a violent relationship, you cant just go back to it once the person whos perpetrated the violence has been arrested, otherwise the thing goes round and round in circles.  And the poor children, just like the Once Were Warriors situation, are huddled, listening to their parents fighting.  So weve got to give women, first of all, somewhere to go, secondly, to empower them to make and force change.
SUSAN And the third point?  So weve got a chance in attitude, something for women to do, and whats your third point?

PETER Well, the third thing, and were beginning to see it more and more, is men being accountable, talking, acknowledging and making change.  And we have seen- We have seen men who have been violent in the past who have come out and said, I no longer want to be violent, so were beginning to get men talking about it.

SUSAN So they can change?  At the moment, probably a 20-week course is the best youll get.  Is it enough to get what is possibly ingrained behaviour changed?

PETER  It is not enough, and in legislation that is coming through to reform the Family Court, one of the good things about that legislation is enhanced programmes – broader, more customised.  Look, violence varies, Susan, as you probably know.  Some is contextual – it happens as a result of a marriage break-up.  Other is lethal.  We have men who are virtually pathological, and one 20-week programme isnt enough.  They may need a programme stretching over years.

SUSAN Across society- We have heard often that domestic violence is right across society.  Is that your experience?

SUSAN It doesnt matter if youre a doctor in Remuera or whatever – its right across?

PETER It is, and dont forget that family violence isnt just punching and kicking.  It is often much more insidious, and the control – the psychological violence which there is out there – is just as bad as the physical.

SUSAN Do you see that?  Did you see that in your job – the psychological violence?

PETER  I listened at times to voice recordings on answerphones which women had had in the Family Court and I had access to the recordings that men had made.  Its terrible stuff.  And the other thing were beginning to see more and more is the text messaging and the use of emails.  So now everyones pretty marked – if you sent a bad text message, the chances are itll surface.  And some of the melancholic, awful, intimidating text messaging, often during the night, now is beginning to surface.

SUSAN This week, interestingly, Professor Greg Newbold from the University of Canterbury came out saying that Maori are overrepresented in many of the bad statistics in this country, as we know, sadly.  He was blaming the warrior culture and patriarchal culture of Maori for domestic violence.  Do you buy that argument?

PETER  I dont necessarily buy that argument at all.  The evidence that I have suggests that pre-colonisation many, many years ago, violence was not part of Maori culture, and thats certainly the case in the Pacific.  So I dont think its- I think its far too simplistic to say that we can blame that.
SUSAN Now, in a legal sense youre also advocating some changes, arent you, one being there is actually an offence of domestic violence.


SUSAN Because at the moment, you could be charged with assault, common assault, assault against a women, but it doesnt actually show if its domestic violence.

PETER  Correct.  You see, my point on this is that if you are a drink-driver, you get charged with drink-driving.  Youre branded – you are a drink-driver, and you have to be accountable for that.  But not so, and I cannot understand or fathom this- with violence, there is no offence of domestic violence.  The most that we get is male assaults female, and thats the biggest clue you get that it could be domestic.  We can and should do much better than this.

SUSAN So it would make a difference to have on someones record domestic violence?

PETER  Yes, it would.  I would like, when I see someones list of previous convictions, to be able to see that they have assaulted a woman, a partner, maybe more than one over a period of years and that its been domestic.  At the moment, I dont know.
SUSAN Youre also suggesting some sort of 0800 Crimestoppers, if you like, centralised place for women to go when there is a case of domestic violence.

PETER Yes.  One thing I would very much like us to promote through the Blue [White] Ribbon campaign and other things is who do you go to where you can be safe?  And women may feel fearful that Child, Youth and Family might intervene and take away the children.  They might feel fearful that the police will act in a way they dont want.  Theres got to be a safe way to talk about this.

SUSAN Youre also suggesting somewhere for men to go, like a man stop I think you called it.


SUSAN How would that work?

PETER  Well, it does work.  Im from Gisborne, and Im proud of that fact because its one of the few places in the country thats set up a house where men can go.  One of my points is if men are violent, why should it be the women that have to leave?  I cannot see what the rationale or wisdom of that is, and so I think a place where men can go and talk about whats going on in their lives and how they might change might be a very very constructive thing.
SUSAN You mentioned earlier in the interview men starting to speak.  Are you seeing that more – starting to speak amongst themselves, starting to put the, I guess, peer pressure on each other in a positive way?

PETER Well, I am.  You may have heard of the White Ribbon motorbike ride, where a whole bunch of people visit 86 centres.  And one of these which I went to was just wonderful – very very empowering.  Because I think a lot of men do know – do know that theyve been violent.  They are ashamed of it.  To be able to talk about that with others who have done similarly is a way of getting out there that they need to change.

SUSAN How do you help them, though, if they do want to come out of it?  As we said, a 20-week course isnt going to do it.  A decent man whos done a bad thing – how do you get him right?

PETER  Well, we all know that there is aggression.  There is aggression on the sports field, and controlled aggression is acceptable.

SUSAN We admire it on the sports field.

PETER  We do.  But what we dont admire is the sportsman that then loses the plot, and we used to see this in the old days on rugby fields, but I suggest less so now.  In the old days, aggression was uncontrolled.  There were free-for-all punches.  Its dreadful stuff.  So what Im trying to say, through the White Ribbon campaign, and we all are, is this fact – theres a big difference between controlled aggression and violence. 
SUSAN Do you think we will get there?  You mentioned drink-driving as a good example.  Its a very good example, because in my youth, no one even thought about it.  These days, none of the youth I know would think of drink-driving, and there is a real social stigma on it.  But do you think we will get there in a generation or two with domestic violence?

PETER We will make change.  Look, the fact that Im here today speaking about this – this wouldnt have happened 20 years ago.  And the fact that so many mayors, people are our ambassadors- John Key, Len Brown, Ruben Wiki, the famous rugby league player, are ambassadors, this wouldnt have happened years ago.  Im ever the optimist.

SUSAN Well, good luck.

PETER  Thank you.

SUSAN Very good to talk to you.  Thank you, Peter Boshier.

Ryder type violence can have major after effects

The after effect of violent acts can be major, not just for the victim, but also for family and acquaintances – as well as for the perpetrators.

The Jesse Ryder attack shows obvious potential after effects. It’s likely it will directly cost Ryder several hundred thousand dollars through not being able to fulfil indian cricket contracts. It’s possible it will bring an end to Ryder’s cricketing career, and may have long term health implications for Ryder.

And it’s not yet known what the extent of Ryder’s injuries are head injuries can affect people for life, sometimes quite drastically.

His attack has also had a major initial effect on Ryders partner and his family and friends who have given up much else in their lives so they can be with him while he’s in hospital. They will also be affected by his rehabilitation and other forced changes in Ryder’s life.

And there is likely to be a major effect on Ryder’s alleged attackers. If convicted their sentences will have a significant immediate affect on their lives, especially if they are sent to prison. They will be kniwn as Ryder bashers, and it may have a significant effect on their employment proespects.

Being arrested and charged is just the start of what is likely to be extensive media and public scrutiny of what sort of people might be such thugs.

And others can get drawn in to the effects as well, as a musician callinmg himself Scribe has found out – see Washed up rapper kicks Ryder while he’s down and  Rapper sparks outrage. Some dumb comments about Ryder’s attack on Twitter have attracted uncomplimentary attention.

But Ryder’s attack is not an isolated incident. There are frequent victims of violent acts, so there are frequent cases of significant after effects for a larger number of victims and associated people.

The aftermath of violence can be personality changing, relationship changing, and life changing. In some cases it is life ending.

And this is all this can be avoided if violent behaviour is avoided. We can all play a part by not encouraging violence, and by speaking against violence – there can be a very fine line between low level violence and very damaging violence, all it takes is one bit of bad luck, one over-reaction.

Jessie Ryder, and our society’s violent nature

The vicious and gutless attack on Jessie Ryder and saddened and sickened many of us. Unfortunately it simply highlights an entrenched culture of violence in parts of our society. And that culture is far more widespread than a few high profile bashings.

‘Gazzaw’ commented at Whale Oil:

It’s time now to take a stand against the mindless violence that increasingly perpetuates our society.

If the Ryder attack became a catalyst for addressing societal violence some good may come out of it.

This is surely an opportunity for Collins and Tolley to act in concert and push through some initiatives to start dealing with the violence in our society. Do it whilst the public of all political shades and the MSM are receptive.

But it shouldn’t be left to “Collins and Tolley“, or to Government. They can play a part of course. But it’s also up to media and society itself to become more actively involved in addressing entrenched cultures of violence.

That means all of us should take some responsibility for our joint poroblems.

What to do about societal violence? Perhaps we need to look at wider issues of acceptance of violence in our society. Like:
* glorification of sports violence by broadcasters
* spectator acceptance and encouragementn of violence
* political violence – verbal attacks Parliament, political attack tactics
* blog violence

There is widespread acceptance of win at all costs regardless of the nastiness of the tactics.

Members of the public stepped in to try and protect Ryder when he was attacked, I’ve seen this happen and have been involved in public confrontation of violence.

But too many violent people think it is something that violence is acceptable enough to get away with if they can.

Government can only do so much. Society needs to look more at itself, it’s own problems – and it’s own solutions.

Culture of violence in schools

New Zealand’s culture of violence is spread through much of our society. That it is apparently protected by schools trying to protect their reputations at the cost of teacher and pupil safety is, if true, disgraceful.

The secret story of violence in schools

A teacher is punched in the face, another is shoved in the chest and their lunch stolen, one is regularly verbally abused while another has their car vandalised.  But at the schools’ request, none of it is reported to police.

Post-Primary Teachers Association president Robin Duff called the situation “intolerable”.

He said, in the PPTA News, the teachers’ union could not continue to be “complicit in this conspiracy of silence” that concealed the level of violence within schools.

He said competitiveness in schools gave them an incentive to hide issues of violence towards teachers and staff, and some schools didn’t want police involved because it could lead to negative publicity.

The national executive was “particularly concerned” to learn that some schools were actually forbidding teachers from reporting instances to police.

This is similar to families who keep violence secret to avoid exposing their reputation or mana to scrutiny. But…

The Secondary Principals’ Association was reluctant to support the  PPTA’s move.

President Patrick Walsh said he had not seen any evidence of a conspiracy of silence, nor was he aware of principals banning teachers from reporting assaults to police.

An open inquiry would find out if he’s right or not.

Walsh said some schools could be worried by bad publicity associated with assaults, but principals would be foolish to cover up violence against teachers because it could result in a personal grievance case against the school.

But there are serious claims that it’s happening.

Until we deal with our violence problems openly and honestly the culture will continue to ruin people’s lives – can it will continue to cost some lives.

Dirty school secrets, like dirty family secrets, need to be exposed and addressed. This takes courage, but it’s something we as a country need to do.

What can we do better for our children?

We all know that addressing abuse and harm of children is difficult, there are no easy quick answers. Many people and groups are trying to do something about it. The more effort and co-operation the better, if we all help a little it can add up to a lot.

Everyone can contribute, with ideas and actions. As individuals and as groups what should we be doing? How can we help best?

Any positive ideas on what might help? Or  stories of what is helping children and successfully confronting violence and abuse?

If we think positive we will do positive.

Backlash against speaking up, and support

It’s not always easy speaking up against violence and abuse. There can be backlashes and attacks – from people who feel exposed or guilty about their tendencies to support abusive behaviour?

A few weeks ago on a blog someone posted a link to a photo depicting ‘children’ that I thought was repulsive. Sure it was playing on a well known literary work from a few hundred years ago, but the way in which it was graphically displayed here was disgusting.

I spoke up about it.

This result in abuse and intellectual accusations, first be one person and because I was speaking up alone he was joined by others, who complained about me commenting on the blog. Suddenly, without warning or comment, I was blocked from posting on the blog, so I couldn’t respond to attacks.

This was on a supposedly respectable blog with an academic/intellectual slant, although I had been attacked by multiple participants previously due to political opposition.

This demonstrates two things.

  1. A culture of acceptance of violence and abusive material permeates through much of our society.
  2. Speaking up against entrenched group views is not always easy.

This just makes me more determined to speak up when I see promotion or acceptance of violence via comments or abusive material. If no one speaks up then nothing changes.

Blogs aren’t always like this. A week ago on another blog someone calling himself Psycho Milt commented:

All sarcasm aside, this twat should be glad those cops were present, they were probably the only thing keeping him from a well-deserved punch in the face.

This comment was supported by some but challenged by others, including me. Psycho Milt remained defensive about his comment and kept reiterating his justification for a “punch in the face”, but those of us opposing violent action held our ground.

That’s what can make a difference.

Good Narks and nastiness

There have been good Narks, also frustrations, but it’s been very sad to see the depths of nastiness that some knockers have resorted to.

I’ve been with Nark since pretty much when it began last year, most of the time mostly towards the sidelines. Like virtually everyone who got involved I wanted to help do something about New Zealand’s terrible record of child abuse and violence.

In some ways Nark was very successful and popular.  Many people joined wanting to do things around the country. The problem is that while there was plenty of doing and enthusiasm Nark grew too big too quickly to manage properly. The time and effort required for organisation and administration was not given priority, resulting in some problems and many frustrations.

This led to a mass resignation in January. Nark was a voluntary fledgling organisation and those who had become involved had other priorities in their lives to deal with. Some decided Nark was not for them. Most who left went on to doing different things or things differently. Fair enough.


A few people who left Nark (and some who joined them later) started a campaign to discredit Nark, maybe they aimed to destroy. They have continued a campaign of abuse and accusation, some of it quite personal and nasty.

Why? That’s a very good question.

I admit there are still things that need to be addressed and done in Nark to get it on a sound and acceptable footing. There always will be administration that needs to be done, the paperwork has to be present and correct.

But I think it is inexcusable the way the campaign of hate has happened, some of what I have seen has been disgraceful. There are ways of addressing problems, but vindictive nasty attacks , abuse and accusations are never acceptable – especially from people who are supposedly working against abuse.

Probably just about everyone attracted to dealing with abuse and violence have their own histories and stories, some can be quite awful. Most of us have unresolved personal issues, it’s the nature of life.

Lashing out at others, giving the verbal bash, this doesn’t solve anything for anyone, all it does is makes things worse. It keeps the culture of abuse alive and kicking – in the guts. It doesn’t even help those who are lashing out, all it does is extend their bad feelings.

If issues come up that need addressing, sure, there are reasonable ways to bring them to attention and to deal with them.

But surely the abuse, the online violations of decency, must be seen for what they are, counterproductive to dealing with the real problems out there. We should be working for the children in danger, they need adults who will speak up and act for them. And there’s a few adults crying out for help in dealing with their unresolved problems too.

There’s only a few real haters and wreckers, jealous and vindictive. Maybe they should be ashamed of themselves. Maybe they need help.

Unfortunately others jump on the abuse bandwagon and put a few kicks in too – see it for the destructiveness and nastiness it is. Don’t feed the monster. Redirect your efforts at things that will help others, or yourself.

The hate is a continuation of the problem we are supposed to be working against.

Surely we should all be working for better, worse is a curse on all of us. We have to attack the violence and abuse culture, not the people trying to do something about it.

Imperfect as we all are, imperfect as Nark has been, we need to make better.


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