Why there’s anger, Murray

There’s been wide and varied reactions to David Cunliffe’s “sorry to be a man” comment and to Tania Billingsley casting aside anonymity and speaking out about her feeling about the political reaction to her case.

This is understandable, especially when collective guilt is applied to “all men” and men are told to shut up and not talk about it. Many men and more than a few women have reacted against this. Some of the response has been reactionary and awful, especially when politics is put into the mix. Some of it has been angry.

But, and this is a big BUT, there is much deeper anger seething to the surface. Survivors of rape and domestic violence have deep hurt about what men have done to them and anger about the attitudes on display. Murray McCully is bearing the brunt of much of this. His apparent nonchalance and disinterest in the Malaysian diplomat case has spark a furor.

This angry reaction has taken many aback because while the feelings are evident the reasons are not clear to most people. There’s a good reason for this. Most survivors of brutality don’t like talking about their ordeals, especially in public, so their side of the story has been missed by most.

While many men have been momentarily miffed by accusations of guilt they can quickly move on to other things. Survivors can’t. Every time a rape case or a murder or assault is publicised it reminds then and drags their hurt to the surface again.

On a blog yesterday someone did speak out and put the respective hurt and anger into perspective – “I got an apology”… said no survivor of rape or gendered violence ever.

As I write this I am so tired. I am tired of repeating myself. Tired of having to explain why the “not all men” arguments are damaging and not a legitimate or helpful response to discussions about violence against women. There are women on this planet who have had legs ripped out from their sockets while being raped. There are women who have been beaten so badly they have not survived. My friend was hit so hard one time she shat herself. It is hard to say anything new about the same old issues when so few people hear the voices of those who have survived. When change is incremental. When the response is so often “…not all men”. Yeah. Moving on.

That level of violence is always perpetrated by men. Disgraceful male animals.

“I got an apology”… said no survivor of rape or gendered violence ever – See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2014/07/11/i-got-an-apology-said-no-survivor-of-rape-or-gendered-violence-ever/#sthash.UC0cpEoa.dpuf

Most men abhor this sort of violence. But those who are miffed when the blame finger is pointed at them need to understand my some women – far too many women – are angry at men.

Why women are angry at Murray McCully for appearing not to care about victims. Why they don’t give a toss about the hurt feelings of peaceful men.

Sure they may overstate culpability of males who are not violent. But that comes from eons of their violation and hurt being grossly understated and ignored.

You know we have a massive problem as a society when a man apologising for the violence men commit against women causes more outcry and insult than the violence he is apologising for.

One billion women on this planet have survived violence. One billion women are living with the aftermath of this violence; the PTSD, the nightmares, the anxiety, the isolation, the shame and stigma… the blame. When a man says sorry for the abuse women have survived, why do so many people and media sources run to defend “good, non-violent men” everywhere, but when a woman has the courage to speak about surviving her own rape or surviving violence she is shamed? Why is she asked “What where you wearing?”, “Were you drunk?”, “Did you say no?”, “Did you deserve it?” Why does no one run to her defence?

Some do quietly defend and confront the excuses and redirection of blame. That often results in attacks – I’ve been viciously attacked and receive ongoing abuse in social media for speaking up against man crap.

But much more male speaking up has to happen to confront one of society’s dirtiest secrets.

I’m not sorry I’m a man at all. Neither is my wife sorry I’m a man.

But I’m sorry for the fact that more men don’t speak up and confront diverting and demeaning language – man crap. I see the excuses and the making women responsible for their safety frequently.

Men should be collectively doing far more about it.

Bickering about who is and who isn’t to blame is pointless. Men need to come up with a way of fixing their own shitty record of wrecking women’s and children’s lives.

Only a small minority of men are vicious animals, but they cause a huge amount of damage in our society.

We can either say it’s not our fault, not our problem and ignore it.

Or we can collectively stand up and do far more about it.

A good way for Murray McCully to end his privileged political career would be to make a real symbolic difference, but for him to do that he woukld have to understand the problem he is very much a part of.

I don’t agree with this petition – Demand Murray McCully, Minister for Foreign affairs, resign.

Demands are more likely to entrench opinion against resigning.

But McCully could decide to resign of his own accord, if he got what the problem he is embroiled in is and chose to do something significant about it.

Victims of rape and violence don’t so much need apologies, they need understanding of their anger and they need far more action to prevent so many women and children’s lives being wrecked, and far better support given to survivors.

“Not all men” reactions

Discussions on domestic violence and “rape culture” often get very testy and polarised. Amongst this there seems to be a campaign to marginalise anyone who is deemed to say or think anything like “not all men” are violence or are sexual offenders.

Chloe King has been posting on this at The Daily Blog (she has also started a petition try and pressure Murray McCully into resigning). Today she posted “I got an apology”… said no survivor of rape or gendered violence ever where she opens with some typical blanket blaming…

Saying “not all men” does not absolve you from the actions of other men. It does not mean you get to be excluded from the conversation. It does not mean you get a free pass to not give a shit.

Some women have been subjected to horrific attacks so there’s a lot of hurt and ill feeling, understandably to a much wider target than is causing the problems.

We live in society that does so little to support and protect those who have survived abuse and does so much to exempt and pardon those who abuse. Isn’t it time we challenged and changed this?

Fair enough, to a reasonable extent that’s true.

There were two contrasting responses to this post.

FRAMU got a positive response to a very careful comment.

“Saying “not all men” does not absolve you from the actions of other men. It does not mean you get to be excluded from the conversation. It does not mean you get a free pass to not give a shit.”

okay – im going out on a limb here – and im not trying to be an ass or start a flame war. And in no way should this be considered an attempt to minimise or distract from the very pertinent debate about violence (domestic, sexual and otherwise) in our society. And im not trying to defend the knuckle draggers, because they piss me off as much as any one else

Im trying really hard to word this in a way that reflects an honest attempt to be constructive and work towards good outcomes for society

Do people realise that when some men say “not all men” they arent saying the above? (but yes theres some who say not all men and mean exactly what youre describing – which makes things trickier to discuss)

They are really saying – “im not a violent sexual offender so please dont call me one” – they are using “not all men” to talk about themselves and whether they have personally commited any acts of sexual violence, because the fear they are being labelled as such for being born with a penis.

Which is of course, utterly missing the point your trying to make, but its a real and genuine gut reaction – but one which if you work past it and listen to what women are saying you can quickly forget about.

But dont first reactions matter if we are trying to achieve some sort of change and get more men onside with the collective ownership of the issue of male violence?

I understand the level of frustration and downright anger over this issue – and i unconditionally support the concept of men owning the issue of male violence.

But i wonder how far we would get if we talked causes and solutions instead of blanket blame

From a personal perspective

If you want to call me out and say i need to be part of the solution – then hell yeah! Im with you all 100%! Why? Because its true!

But if you want to say im part of the cause, without knowing anything about me or how i conduct myself in the world, solely because im genetically a man, then your going to meet a *little* bit of resistance.

Isnt that kind of thing just as bad as putting something on women because they were born women?

So – hopefully ive represented this in a way which accurately communicates one very, very small point – please dont rush to judgement on this just because theres some arseholes out there who are being less than human

(and yeah, before any one rips into me, you might say ive earned my stripes with the many very, very staunch feminists and GLBT people ive grown up around)

ROB received a more mixed reaction:

Yeah, we get that.

The problem is that it’s just not constructive to defend yourself or your class, when your class is generally causing to much terror.

I mean, if you were really angry about the daily acts of violence and aggression, then you wouldn’t try to morally defend the oppressive class of people.

I’m male. And I’m pissed.

I’m angry at the daily acts of violence. I’m angry at the violence that doesn’t have to happen, because women are already so scared of what men are capable of and what they do. Angry at the lack of consequence for abusers.

I’m also angry at the ways in which I have contributed to the systematic violence.

That doesn’t mean that I’m ashamed of who I am as a person. But it does mean that I’m committed to standing with the oppressed.

And when survivors tell you their stories, their experiences and their emotional reactions to daily aggression, it just isn’t helpful to say “we aren’t all like that”. It does nothing to improve the situation. And it gives every excuse to the all men everywhere to simply absolve themselves individually from responsibility.

Of the zillion other possible ways to react, why choose “… but not all men”?

Why not choose to say “I’m with you. what can I do?”

Or maybe “I commit to calling my male friends out when they perpetuate rape culture”.

Or hell, why not simple shut up and listen?

It’s also not constructive to blame a whole “class” when a minority of that class are causing most of the problems.

Somehow those who are hurting need to acknowledge that alienating a lot of people (men but also women react against the ostracising) is counter-productive to getting a strong move towards rectifying some of these problems.

Far to many women have suffered because of men, but not all women.

Far too many men inflict awful and lasting damage on women, children and men. But most men will be far more willing to act against this if they are not alienated and attacked.

“I got an apology”… said no survivor of rape or gendered violence ever – See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2014/07/11/i-got-an-apology-said-no-survivor-of-rape-or-gendered-violence-ever/#sthash.unP6cUpV.dpuf
“I got an apology”… said no survivor of rape or gendered violence ever – See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2014/07/11/i-got-an-apology-said-no-survivor-of-rape-or-gendered-violence-ever/#sthash.unP6cUpV.dpuf
“I got an apology”… said no survivor of rape or gendered violence ever – See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2014/07/11/i-got-an-apology-said-no-survivor-of-rape-or-gendered-violence-ever/#sthash.unP6cUpV.dpuf

Tania Billingsley steps up and challenges

Tania Billingsley has waived the default suppression in sexual assault cases and revealed her identity as the alleged victim in the Malaysian diplomat case. She did this in an interview on 3rd Degree – Woman at centre of Malaysian diplomat case speaks out.

Care had to be taken with what was talked about as the case is sub judice. As a result apart from her identity and her feelings on the case (which was important for her to be able to do) little new was revealed.

Understandably Tania is annoyed by the process. She felt that her voice hadn’t been heard – she didn’t want to be suppressed and ignored but that is the default in cases like this. Politicians and media were obligated to not discuss anything personal about her or any specifics about the case.

Tania is particularly annoyed at the politicians involved, especially Murray McCully, calling on him to resign. That’s her opinion but not her call.

McCully doesn’t appear to have dealt with the case well and he seemed very uncomfortable when he had to front up in Parliament last week. I think he should have made sure he was better informed about the progress of the case. But he was correct not to have become involved in either the police work or the diplomacy, he is clearly required to keep a distance from both.

I don’t care if McCully resigns or not. I doubt that he should be forced to resign. I’ve never been much of a fan of his and wouldn’t care if he exited Parliament and politics – but my personal views and Tania’s personal views should not be deciding factors in whether a resignation is appropriate.

Tania also said she thought John Key should resign and criticised him for appearing to disregard her in his comments on the case. 3rd Degree advise:

We also asked Prime Minister John Key and he also declined, with his office saying: “We will decline your request for the Prime Minister to appear on the programme. The legal implications of any pending court case precludes an appearance.”

That’s the political reality of the situation. The same would have applied when Helen Clark was Prime Minister. The same would apply (or should apply) if Metirea Turei was acting Prime Minister.

Fair enough that Tania is pissed off with the politicians, but her case isn’t political, it’s in our judiciary system which has to be separated from politics.

Tania has a wider activist objective.

“I just really think that we as a country, and especially the Government, needs to start not just reacting to sexual assault but working to prevent it.”

That’s a fair call, but that objective has to be kept separate from her case. It’s not proper for John Key to take any personal interest in the case, but he could make a significant difference if he championed a change in attitude on general, domestic and and sexual violence. All forms of violence in our society are related.

David Cunliffe tried to lead on this last week but he made a major misjudgement. While is “sorry I’m a man” statement appeased those working at the bottom of the sexual violence cliff he alienated and annoyed many men and his comment didn’t go down well with many women either. He meant well but his approach was widely unpopular.

As Prime Minister John Key could make a big difference on leading a change in some public attitudes to violence and sexual assault including rape.

It’s unlikely Tania will get a personal apology from John Key while the case is pending but she could achieve a lot if her challenge encourages Key to take a lead on addressing entrenched negative cultures in our society.

Most people are peaceful (including most men) want a far less violent society. If our politicians lead a positive change in attitude we can make a major difference.

‘Rape culture’ is a negative term. I understand it but it doesn’t help, people hate being linked with it so it repels rather than attracts support for a worthy cause.

Blaming and shaming all, and telling people to shut up about it and trying to shame them into silent sorryness (and this happens) are also counter productive.

We need a positive non-violence approach that’s gender neutral and is inclusive of men and women wanting to bring about change. We have to co-exist together in society and most of us want to live together as men and women, so we have to work together to fight violence.

If by revealing herself and speaking up Tania Billingsley helps push politicians and people towards this she will have done well.

Rather than challenging John Key to resign I challenge him to use his position as leader help make a difference and lead positive change.

It would surprise me if he did but Murray McCully could also step up on this. That could really shake up the old male attitudes.

Violence reactions

There have been many reactions to David Cunliffe’s speech on domestic violence where he said “I’m sorry for being a man right now, because family and sexual violence is perpetrated overwhelmingly by men against women and children”.

Suggestions that the problem is not “overwhelmingly by men against women and children” are strongly opposed by some. And pointing out that not all men are violence, or that only a minority of men are violent, is often derided. A Twitter hashtag #notallmen is used in a derogatory way.

A tweet yesterday from Labour activist Stephanie Rodgers started a swarm of violence reactions.

Stephanie Rodgers @stephanierodgrs
If we’re going to temper our statements based on the same old crowd crying #notallmen, we’re never going to talk about violence at all. #rpt

That is an extreme but fairly common view, if you question a narrow focus prescribed by some you are deemed an enemy of the cause. I responded to this (I’ve had a number of online skirmishes with Stephanie).

@PeteDGeorge
And if we temper our statements with #onlywomenandchildrenarevictims we won’t address violence properly.

The “all men are bad” approach alienates many peaceful men (and also some women).

Jessica Williams @mizjwilliams
And men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators. by saying “#notallmen!!” you are closing down important debate.

I don’t know how trying to discuss wider issues in a complex problem is “closing down important debate”.

More respionses in the ensuing shitstorm:

David Farrar ‏@dpfdpf
@mizjwilliams @PeteDGeorge @stephanierodgrs The research I am referring to is http://www.otago.ac.nz/christchurch/otago014519.pdf …. Genunely interested in others.

Jessica Williams @mizjwilliams
@RikSennin @PeteDGeorge @stephanierodgrs is it a troll? Is it a twit? No! It’s #expertdude! Shh Steph! We must LISTEN! So we can LEARN!

Stephanie Rodgers @stephanierodgrs
@mizjwilliams We’re only women, but I know we can be taught, if only we listen to the dudes!

Jessica Williams ‏@mizjwilliams
f oh well there you are then. case closed. let me go and renounce my feminism, stat.

Dovil ‏@Dovil
thank god the men are here to sort it out by denying a problem exists.

jo ‏@jofromgreylynn
*rampaging hoards of wimminz, out assaulting and humiliating the menz at night*

Roz S-P ‏@IrnBruja
@mizjwilliams No point love. We can’t talk about our issues without it becoming all about the men.

Jessica Williams ‏@mizjwilliams
oh of course, i forgot that. we need them to tell us what to care about. HOW COULD I FORGET.

Roz S-P ‏@IrnBruja 
Up next, rich old white men tell brown people what racism is!

And so it goes on, achieving nothing but annoyance and aggravation. Very sad that such a serious issue gets derailed be demarcation disputes about what must and must not come into any discussions.

Men are obviously a major part of the domestic violence problem. Many people have been adversely affected by violence and it can become a very emotional topic.

Shouting men out of any discussions on it and trying to enforce a narrow feminine focus excludes a major part of the solution. Violence is predominantly a male problem, however most men are non-violent. The non-violent majority can be a strong voice against violence – if it is not shut out and told to shut up.

Good men speaking up is one of the best ways of confronting male violence.  Maybe they need to learn to avoid the minority of women who want to frame the violence issue and abuse anyone straying from their narrow agenda.

Family Violence data

There has been a lot of debate on violence since David Cunliffe released Labour’s anti-violence policy yesterday. Cunliffe started his speech by saying:

‘‘Can I begin by saying I’m sorry – I don’t often say it – I’m sorry for being a man, right now. Because family and sexual violence is perpetrated overwhelmingly by men against women and children,’’ he said.

Labour’s media release said:

Labour will take decisive and far-reaching action to address violence against women and children, says Labour Leader David Cunliffe.

Questions have been asked about why Cunliffe has apologised as a man and why Labour have solely targeted violence against women and children.

More men than women are more violent but aren’t solely responsible for violence. (It should be noted that violence outside of family violence is far more often male versus male).

Here is the latest data summary from the New Zealand Family Violence Clearing House.

Data Summaries 2013: Snapshot

This snapshot is drawn from the five NZFVC 2013 Data Summaries. Refer to the Data Summaries for definitions and caveats on the data below.

Family violence

  • In 2012, there were 87,622 family violence investigations by NZ Police. 101,293 children were linked to these investigations.[1]
  • In 2011, 4064 applications were made for protection orders:

-          2776 (91%) were made by women and 230 (8%) by men

-          2655 (88%) of respondents were men and 321 (11%) women.[2]

  • In 2011, there were 7896recorded male assaults female offences and 5232 recorded offences for breaching a protection order.2
  • In 2011/12, Women’s Refuges affiliated to the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges received 85,794 crisis calls. 8930 women and 7005 children accessed advocacy services in the community. 2273 women and 1424 children stayed in safe houses.[3]
  • 1 in 3 (35.4%) ever-partnered New Zealand women report having experienced physical and/or sexual IPV in their lifetime. When psychological/emotional abuse is included, 55% report having experienced IPV in their lifetime. In the 12 months prior to the survey, 5.2% had experiencedphysical and/or sexual IPV. When psychological/emotional abuse was included, 18.2% had experienced one or more forms of IPV.[4]
  • In 2011, NZ Police recorded 11 homicides by an intimate partner. 9 of the victims were women and 2 were men.[5]
  • 16.8% of New Zealand women report having experienced sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime; 2% in the last 12 months.4
  • In 2011, there were 1,575 reported sexual offences against an adult over 16 years.1
  • In 2011/12, Child, Youth and Family received 152,800 reports of concern. 61,074 were deemed to require further action, leading to 21,525 findings of abuse or neglect. 3884 children were in care placements.[7]
  • In 2011, NZ Police recorded 12 homicides of children and young people under 20 by a family member.5 In 2011, 113 children and youth were hospitalised for a serious non-fatal assault perpetrated by a family member.[8]
  • Between 1 in 3[9] and 1 in 5[10] New Zealand women and 1 in 109 men report having experienced child sexual abuse. 1 in 5 female and 1 in 20 male secondary school students report having experienced unwanted sexual contact in the last 12 months.[11]
  • In 2011, there were 1856 reported sexual offences against a child under 16 years.1
  • 10% of secondary school students report witnessing adults at home hitting or physically hurting each other once or more in the last year.11

Intimate partner violence (IPV)

Adult sexual assault

  • 29% of New Zealand women and 9% of men report having experienced sexual assault in their lifetime. 73% of these assaults against women and 54% of these assaults against men were perpetrated by a partner, ex-partner or other family member.[6]

Children and young people

  • In 2011/12, Child, Youth and Family received 152,800 reports of concern. 61,074 were deemed to require further action, leading to 21,525 findings of abuse or neglect. 3884 children were in care placements.[1]
  • In 2011, NZ Police recorded 12 homicides of children and young people under 20 by a family member.5 In 2011, 113 children and youth were hospitalised for a serious non-fatal assault perpetrated by a family member.[2]
  • Between 1 in 3[3] and 1 in 5[4] New Zealand women and 1 in 109 men report having experienced child sexual abuse. 1 in 5 female and 1 in 20 male secondary school students report having experienced unwanted sexual contact in the last 12 months.[5]
  • In 2011, there were 1856 reported sexual offences against a child under 16 years.1
  • 10% of secondary school students report witnessing adults at home hitting or physically hurting each other once or more in the last year.11

 

[1]Child, Youth and Family. (2013). Retrieved June 2013, from http://www.cyf.govt.nz/about-us/who-we-are-what-we-do/information-for-media.html

[2] National Health Board Business Unit. (2011). National minimum dataset (Hospital events): Data Dictionary. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

[3]van Roode, T, Dickson, N, Herbison, P, Paul, C. (2009). Child sexual abuse and persistence of risky sexual behaviors and negative sexual outcomes over adulthood: Findings from a birth cohort. Child Abuse & Neglect, 33,161–172.

[4]Fanslow, JL, Robinson, EM, Crengle, S, Perese, L. (2007). Prevalence of child sexual abuse reported by a cross-sectional sample of New Zealand women. Child Abuse & Neglect, 31, 935–945.

[5]Clark, TC., Robinson, E., Crengle, S., Grant, S., Galbreath, RA. & Sykora, J. (2009). Youth ’07: The Health and Wellbeing of Secondary School Students in New Zealand. Findings on Young People and Violence. Auckland: The University of Auckland. Retrieved June 2013, from http://www.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz/faculty/ahrg/_docs/2007-violence-report-2010a.pdf

[1]New Zealand Police. (2013). Customised data extract

[2]Ministry of Justice (2013, February). [District and Family Court Data: Personal Communication].

[3] National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges. (2012). Annual Report: July 2011–June 2012. Wellington: NCIWR. Retrieved June 2013, from https://womensrefuge.org.nz/users/Image/Downloads/PDFs/NWR_Annual_Report_2012_WEB.pdf

[4] Fanslow, JL et al. (2011). Sticks, Stones, or Words? Counting the Prevalence of Different Types of Intimate Partner Violence Reported by New Zealand Women. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 20, 741–759.

[5] New Zealand Police. (2011). Homicide Victims Report, 2011. Retrieved February 2013, from https://www.police.govt.nz/statistics/2011/calendar

[6] Mayhew, P. Reilly, JL. (2009). The New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey. In Family Violence Statistics Report. Wellington: Families Commission, August. Retrieved June 2013, from http://www.familiescommission.org.nz/sites/default/files/downloads/family-violence-statistics-report.pdf

[7]Child, Youth and Family. (2013). Retrieved June 2013, from http://www.cyf.govt.nz/about-us/who-we-are-what-we-do/information-for-media.html

[8] National Health Board Business Unit. (2011). National minimum dataset (Hospital events): Data Dictionary. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

[9]van Roode, T, Dickson, N, Herbison, P, Paul, C. (2009). Child sexual abuse and persistence of risky sexual behaviors and negative sexual outcomes over adulthood: Findings from a birth cohort. Child Abuse & Neglect, 33,161–172.

[10]Fanslow, JL, Robinson, EM, Crengle, S, Perese, L. (2007). Prevalence of child sexual abuse reported by a cross-sectional sample of New Zealand women. Child Abuse & Neglect, 31, 935–945.

[11]Clark, TC., Robinson, E., Crengle, S., Grant, S., Galbreath, RA. & Sykora, J. (2009). Youth ’07: The Health and Wellbeing of Secondary School Students in New Zealand. Findings on Young People and Violence. Auckland: The University of Auckland. Retrieved June 2013, from http://www.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz/faculty/ahrg/_docs/2007-violence-report-2010a.pdf

 

Cunliffe’s calamity

As soon as I heard a report of Cunliffe saying sorry for being a man I thought it would would be bad for him. And that’s how it is looking. While some have praised him for “speaking bravely” many many people, both men and women, have reacted negatively. Some very negatively.

Cunliffe has gaffed too much already, but this could be the gaffe to top all gaffes. It could be a calamity for his leadership. People don’t respect apologetic wimps.

He obviously doesn’t under stand the violence debate well. Neither do those who have advised him on this approach.

Sure some would have thought it was a great approach, especially for a women’s refuge audience. But his speech was also aimed at a much wider audience. It was a major policy launch.

But there was no way an apology like that, whether staged or authentic, was going to go down well with many people. Men and women.

One problem is that people want party leaders to be strong and confident. Saying you are sorry for being what you are portrays the opposite.

Another problem is that this feeds into the image of the Labour party being dominated by women. By targeting the opening of his speech very clearly at a very feminine (and feminist) audience reinforces this.

But the biggest problem by far is that stating he is sorry for being a man in general terms implies that he thinks he is to blame for male violence, and that he thinks all men are to blame for violence.

That implication really really gets up the nose of many men. Especially men who abhor violence and would do anything they can to confront and reduce the violence in our society. Men like me.

Men who are proud to be what they are and who they are.

And the reaction from some women has been very negative as well. From a fundamental level of not respecting apologetic theatrics. And on a more common sense and practical level.

Deborah Morris-Travers of children’s lobby group Every Child Counts said:

‘‘One of the solutions to family violence is having all men healthy, educated, feeling good about being parents, feeling supported and engaged in their community and having a strong identity – not apologising for being male.’’

We need strong leadership to address appalling violence in our society. We need strong male role models.

The Cunliffe of yesterdays speech is not someone many people can look up to. They don’t just see his comment as wrong, they feel insulted.

This isn’t superficial tribal politics. It goes much deeper and personal. It questions the decency of all men.

So far Cunliffe has stood by his comment. It’s difficult to see how he can repair the damage and recover any respect he may have had with many people.

This could be Cunliffe’s clinching calamity.

We may now see this excuse for a man limp to an election lashing.

Someone else will have to lead the campaign against violence. Someone who can stand tall and can be respected.

“Man up, step up and stop this bullshit”

David Cunliffe has been reported as calling on men to “man up, step up and stop this bullshit” when launching Labour’s policy on addressing violence.

Labour will take decisive and far-reaching action to address violence against women and children, says Labour Leader David Cunliffe.

“As Labour Party Leader, I am determined that we address the causes and consequences of family violence.

“But this cannot be achieved in a piecemeal manner or without a unified effort across government agencies and NGOs.

“That is why our action plan will be led from within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet,’’ David Cunliffe said.

Violence is a pervasive problem throughout our society. It can have severe adverse effects in relationships and families, and in education, work and social life.  It has an obvious impact on crime.

So putting this degree of importance on the issue is welcome.

“On average 35 New Zealanders are killed by a member of their family every year, and one in three women experience intimate partner violence.

That could be misleading, I don’t think the ‘one in three women’ claim applies to a year, but nevertheless the violence and murder statitistics are appalling.

Last year 20,000 women and children sought the help of Women’s Refuge.

That’s very sad.

“This is totally unacceptable. It has a devastating physical and emotional impact on the lives of a great many of our women and children.”

A shame that men have been excluded from that, many men are also devastated by violence.

“Labour will work towards its elimination. Today we are announcing a package of measures for immediate action, as well as other longer term solutions.

Elimination of violence is a lofty goal but one we should at least move towards as best we can – and better than we have been.

“We will adopt an Action Plan to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Children.

Again, men should be included.

“We will provide $60 million over four years for family and sexual violence to support front-line services, primary prevention and education.

If this is additional funding it will be welcome. Sounds like a small investment if it can be spent effectively.

“We will reform the justice system to provide real justice to survivors while upholding the right to be presumed innocent.

“We will review prosecution guidelines and the operation of protection orders.

Some of this at least has just been looked at by the Government. National made an announcement on it on Wednesday – see PRIME MINISTER ADDRESSES FAMILY VIOLENCE.

It’s good to see both major parties promising to do more to address violence and associated problems.

Perhaps National and Labour can work together more on this to make a concerted effort to deal with the problems regardless of the outcome of the election.

It;s odd that  Labour have focused solely on women and children in their media release. Men are a substantial cause of problems with violence but also suffer from violence substantially.

Grant Robertson partially acknowledged the damage wasn’t exclusively to women and children:

Ending violence, esp against women and children requires a whole community response, but govt has to show leadership

Blog violence

David Farrar has posted about violent suggestions made by blog commenter Stuart Munro in They’re getting more deranged as the election gets closer. Stuart made a comment at left leaning blog The Pundit:

Labour’s problems are readily solved – you black-bag Armstrong and Gower and beat the everliving crap out them. You beat them so badly that doubt is expressed that they will ever walk again, and so that they tremble whenever they see a political discussion.

I’ve seen Stuart commenting on a number of blogs including The Standard and The Daily Blog and have encountered him occasionally. He can be aggressive and abusive.

But it’s a curious choice for a post by DPF. Threats of violence and defence of and tacit support for violent behaviour is not uncommon across social media. Including Kiwiblog, as was soon pointed out. SW commented:

Do you read your own blog commentators DPF?

Why are you highlighting one comment from this idiot from 2011?

Why is your headline ‘they’ – are you implying this is a reflection of people with views contrary to yourself? Again, do you read the comments left here from people of your political persuasion?

Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 19

That wasn’t popular, and neither was mikemikemike:

And how many right wing commentators and blog audience members have wished that Hone was in his office when it was shot it?

You have a crack at the left using the term Nazi, yet you have done this. You lament the left’s apparent lust for actual blood, yet the right are as bad if not worse. There are examples almost daily, I can’t wait for the election to be over so I can read something intelligent again.

Spare us the lecture about being decent, you and your ilk are as bad as the other side, if not worse because you defend/justify your comments.

Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 28

‘Scrubone’ countered:

I think it’s a valid point that bad behaviour should be condemned more often. Sometimes it’s good to stop and look around and consider if there hasn’t been a degradation in standards that has happened so gradually no one has noticed.

However, your “the left is better” comment would hold a lot more water if there was anything on that thread, other than someone wondering at the lack of condemnation. I’ve noted more than once that a few years ago I was looking at hundreds of blogs looking for NZ ones, and the ones who were all f$$k this and f$$k that were invariably left-wing – the violent rhetoric stood out long before the political bent could be detected.

Vote: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

That’s ironic, as I pointed out.

Examples from yesterday’s General Debate (on Kiwiblog):

No bloody use putting shots through the doorway if the targets absent!

Gota practice JB…next time use something bigger like a Parker Hale 270

starboard -I hope they pepper it with 50 cal holes. The local bros’ are unhappy he is teaming with a fat white Kraut.

Where as Dime has received the prestigious “Kiwiblog MVP” award on 3 occasions, you are a worthless cunt :) now go see if your 23 yr old bull dyke boss needs you to do some filing or something

id break the pricks neck with my bare hands if the courts said it was ok.

not much makes me angrier than violence against women & children. they can fuck off with their rape culture bullshit cause i know most blokes think like me.

If you confront these sorts of comments you’re likely to get abused and lied about. I’ve encountered Stuart a few times and he’s been no worse than some here.

Vote: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 5

And while proving the point swung opinion it predictably resulted in defence plus attacks and misrepresentations. Dime took exception to being quoted,

urgh. i’m sure you don’t hang out with actual men. just neutered wimps like yourself.

you suffer from the inability to tell when someone is talking shit, shooting the shit and being deadly serious. you lack the social skills it would seem.

i note you left the smiley face off johnboys quote. kinda changes the context dont ya think?

I asked “How does a smiley face change the context? Talking about shooting someone is ok if you joke about it?”

i cant help you.

Scrubone – do you think a smiley face signals they arent 100% serious or are taking the piss? cause i do. most normal people do.

Joking about and normalising violence is a part of the problem, as is blindness to it being a part of the problem. And it is a common occurrence on Kiwiblog. And obviously still sup;ported as the reaction to Judith’s comment shows.

Yes they are just as bad as anyone, including the right and especially the people on this blog who day after day use violence within their rhetoric, and yet now, here you are, getting all high and mighty (and acting just like the left) saying that a smiley face makes it different, in some way.

How about if someone smiles when they pull the trigger, does that make it better than someone who is frowning, does that mean they should get a lesser sentence, because it was ‘just a joke’ and ‘rather funny’?

The fact is that violent rhetoric etc contributes to the violence in our society because it assists in normalising it. Yes, its all a big joke, until someone takes it that step further, and then, its not quite so funny anymore.

Violence is not alright in any form. Whether it is a joke, a comment or an act. We are meant to be civilised and have control over our actions – and yet, we continue to support violence, because its ‘funny’ (providing its against someone you don’t like).

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Not just the thumb count – this was immediately followed by scrubone:

In reply to Judith.

A culture of violence is still thriving on Kiwiblog, which includes the disparaging of people trying to confront it.

I also saw tweets noting the irony of the Kiwiblog post considering the violent and abusive culture that persists there.

Thread and sharp needling on violence

Discussions on violence can get very antagonistic, there can be raw emotions involved. But we have to be prepared to talk about it and expose the problems. It’s a very complex issue.

A Standard post What Maurice Williamson’s shock tells us about domestic violence followed a common path of destructive squabbling until some very good comments from Redlogix led to some more useful discussion (from here):

Redlogix:

This isn’t a political discussion. It’s a personal one. That’s obvious.

I’ve sat here for the last 10 or 20 minutes having a long hard think about my own life. Here’s a truth about it:

Apart from some drunk idiots in a pub once I’ve never been physically threatened by another male in my life. And apart from one rather extraordinary incident on literally the last hour of my secondary school days I’ve never, ever, hit anyone. I count that as a blessing and good fortune.

I find with most men if you treat them with some modicum of respect and keep out of their faces – they will respond in kind. Most normal men hate physical confrontation and will do anything to avoid it. I know I do.

Except when we are drunk, emotionally wrought, or something has disrupted our routine self-control. And there are many things which fall into that category such as brain damage (A huge portion of male prison inmates have brain-damage symptoms) or PTSD (as did a whole generation of ex-WW2 soldiers.)

In my experience physical violence by men is a very abnormal condition. Due to our size and upper body strength we are especially capable of it – but compared with most other mammal species we are also remarkably co-operative and non-violent – most of the time.

But I wish I could say the same about all the other forms of abuse I’ve encountered over the years. In my own personal experience that both genders participate in non-lethal, non-injury causing sexual, emotional and psychological abuse at about the same rates. Neither gender has a monopoly on virtue.

And this seems to be backed up by considerable research over the last decade.

Dangerous physical violence, is a uniquely male challenge. It’s our problem due to our genetics. While relatively uncommon in daily life, it’s extreme and highly visible consequences demand attention and a responsibility we must own. Our strength is both a blessing and a curse.

But in every other respect – abuse in general is a universal challenge that both genders are responsible for. And what I see here on these threads is shouting at each other from increasingly polarised and mutually incomprehensible positions that takes no ownership on this whatsoever.

False frame that.

Stephanie Rogers:

The thing is, you’re taking your personal experience and extrapolating it to the whole of society. The actual facts of violence in our society are that it is not abnormal, that many, many people commit violent acts without the excuses of alcohol or ‘disruption’, and that the overwhelming majority of violence is committed by men.

The false framing you’re applying, RL, is to draw a line around ‘dangerous physical violence’ and pretend it’s an aberration, in order to continue your argument that nobody should be allowed to identify male violence as a male problem.

To me, the reason there’s ‘increasing polarisation’ in this discussion is because some people, including you, are simply determined not to let an honest, fact-based conversation happen, and consistently jump in to say ‘but it’s not just men, it’s not just men, women have to do something too, it’s not just men’. When – as has been clearly stated many, many times – nobody is saying it’s just men.

Karol:

Further to Stephanie’s spot-on response of RL.

It is also false framing to claim we all can experience emotional and psychological abuse and that it is far more damaging than physical and sexual abuse.

But, the problem with that is that we women also experience that emotional and psychological abuse. I would categorise the physical kinds of abuse as oparticularly damaging to very many people in society, especially those that are physically vulerable. The threat of physical abuse from average strength able-bodied males can be life threatening, and life limiting. It’s not possible to tell in advance which men will resort to physical abuse.

And physical abuse usually includes emotional and psychological abuse – a double whammy.

As Stephanie indicates, our whole culture is permeated with ways that normalise such physical violence.

Redlogix:

The false framing you’re applying, RL, is to draw a line around ‘dangerous physical violence’ and pretend it’s an aberration, in order to continue your argument that nobody should be allowed to identify male violence as a male problem.

Utter fucking bullshit. What exactly do you think I am saying here:

“Dangerous physical violence, is a uniquely male challenge. It’s our problem due to our genetics. While relatively uncommon in daily life, it’s extreme and highly visible consequences demand attention and a responsibility we must own.”

That somehow I’m ‘not allowing male violence to be a male problem’??? Frankly I’m beginning to wonder if lousy reading comprehension is not a uniquely female problem. It’s really hard having an honest conversation with someone who just makes shit up.

The difference between the genders when it comes to abuse is simply this; men cause more physical harm and it’s a lot more visible and it gets a lot more attention. Rightly so. No quibble. No compromise.

And very briefly (to avoid traversing territory we are all familiar with) yes it is plain our society has a legacy of ‘normalising’ this violence in some ways. And some men do shelter behind it, cycnically using their strength to intimidate or hurt because they think their victim is helpless or unable to fight back. The cowardly have always been with us.

But most men do not. Really. While it’s common among a smallish minority of men, for most of us actual violence is a rare occurrence in our lives. But we also understand that it is a potential in any one of us and with maturity we learn to guard against it.

However as we get older we also learn that it is not possible to predict in advance which women will resort to abuse as well. Particularly emotional abuse.

As a rule each gender, when under threat resorts to the weapon that lies nearest to hand – with men it tends to be their physical and sometimes economic strength, with women it is their superior emotional and psychological abilities. When men abuse it is dangerous and usually very stupid; when women abuse it is often subtle but very nasty. One is visible and overt, the other is not. Different patterns of behaviour, but neither command a scrap of moral high ground.

A forty year battle against a predominantly patriarchal society means that feminists have justly invested a huge amount into the battle against male violence. It’s no surprise that this investment is defended fiercely. So when a someone suggests that there is a wider abuse issue both genders need to own in common – it gets promptly shouted down because there is a threatening sense it shifts the framing away from a narrow attention on male violence, diluting and detracting from what is important to you.

And for this reason the discussion diverges into hostility, instead of converging to mutual understanding.

When – as has been clearly stated many, many times – nobody is saying it’s just men.

When I read that I hear weasel words because what I’ve yet to see (and fairly I’m no world expert so feel free to point me) is any women in this discussion honestly owning to any possibility they may have a responsibility here.

You know -like you have been demanding of men for a a while now.

marty mars:

“When men abuse it is dangerous and usually very stupid; when women abuse it is often subtle but very nasty.”

Guess what red, abuse from men also contains the subtle and very nasty as well as the dangerous and very stupid. I don’t hear women commenting here saying it is all men who abuse but that doesn’t seem to matter to you.

“The difference between the genders when it comes to abuse is simply this; men cause more physical harm and it’s a lot more visible and it gets a lot more attention.”

That is just wrong imo – the difference is that predominately men abuse women – physically, emotionally, and all the other – allys you may be able to think of. Note the word ‘predominately’ that should give you a hint.

“So when a someone suggests that there is a wider abuse issue both genders need to own in common – it gets promptly shouted down because there is a threatening sense it shifts the framing away from a narrow attention on male violence, diluting and detracting from what is important to you.”

No I don’t think so. You want to widen the discussion – why again? It is just imo a tactic to avoid confronting the very real, large and ingrained issue of male abuse and violence. Once again, as a male and imo, changing the framing does actually dilute and detract from the main issue of male violence which is most definitely important to me. Note the term ‘main issue’.

Redlogix:

Guess what red, abuse from men also contains the subtle and very nasty as well as the dangerous and very stupid. I don’t hear women commenting here saying it is all men who abuse but that doesn’t seem to matter to you.

In a single sentence it’s neither possible, nor desirable, to hedge all the possibilities. Of course men can be subtle and nasty, just as women can be physical and dangerous – but I was of course generalising. Which does not nullify the point I was making – that each gender is capable of abuse, but tend to dish it out in the form they are most competent in.

That is just wrong imo – the difference is that predominately men abuse women – physically, emotionally, and all the other – allys you may be able to think of.

Sadly – and I mean that – the more recent research on this suggests this just ain’t so. Turns out that if you exclude the dangerous physical violence (but leave in the pushing, shoving and slapping that doesn’t typically lead to visible injury, hospitalisation and visits from the police) that both genders are guilty of physical, sexual and emotional abuse at comparable rates.

Men have somewhat higher rates, but not that much higher. The difference is much less than the conventional wisdom suggests. Several reasons are given.

Male violence is a lot more visible, even taking into account that it tends to me more dangerous. For instance if a man slaps a woman in the face there is a good chance she will report it and will have a decent bruise as evidence leading to charges. When a woman slaps a man – it’s very rare for it to be reported, much less for charges to be laid.

Secondly a man being slapped is highly likely to consider it his fault. “We were arguing and it was my fault she was that pissed off” is the common (and familiar) rationalisation. And thirdly of course there is the humiliation of his friends and workmates finding out. So this leads to a massive under reporting of female physical abuse. Much the same massive under- reporting applies to when women sexually abuse.

And emotional abuse, the kind women specialise in, is not even a crime. No-one reports it, and it never leads to charges.

What after all is the difference between breaking a leg on a skiing holiday and having it broken because your male partner threw you off the first floor balcony? The difference is not the broken leg – it is the emotional and psychological impact of having someone you maybe still love and care for use violence to intimidate, control, humiliate, and coerce you.

What after all is the difference between date-rape and a happy night out? Consent – which is the absence of intimidation, control, humiliation and coercion.

All abuse is at it’s heart emotional and psychological in nature.

karol’s argument It is also false framing to claim we all can experience emotional and psychological abuse and that it is far more damaging than physical and sexual abuse. is of course a gross inversion and misrepresentation. She should know better.

What determines how ‘damaging’ any given abusive scenario is hard to predict, but in simple general terms relates to emotional intensity, repetition and the degree of helplessness experienced. And this applies similarly across all forms of abuse, physical, sexual, emotional, financial, etc.

And this without elevating any one form above another, or giving one a specious precedence for reasons of gender politics.

Miravox:

“Turns out that if you exclude the dangerous physical violence”

Why would you exclude “the dangerous physical violence”? What does that actually mean in terms of domestic violence statistics?

“And emotional abuse, the kind women specialise in, is not even a crime…

On the one hand you say women are as physically violent as men, and on the other that women specialise in emotional violence. So despite or you protestations of equality you seem to either imply women are more culpable in domestic violence i.e. they specialise in emotional violence plus are just as bad as men in the physical violence (when you exclude the dangerous physical violence), or you haven’t framed your argument properly.

Imo, it’s false to say emotional violence is worse that physical violence, or even on the same level. However I do see that emotional injury can be very difficult to recover from – especially if you’re not murdered or permanently physically scared or disabled from being hit, kicked or whatever. Many, many times emotional abuse comes with the physical added extra so both are intertwined (is looking at physical damage everyday emotional or physical abuse in your mind?). I’ve yet to see physical domestic violence come without emotional abuse from the a dominant partner – male or female. And I’ve seen a fair bit.

Locus:

RedLogix – where do you conjure this bizarre “rule” up from?

As a rule each gender, when under threat resorts to the weapon that lies nearest to hand.

The issue here is that there are very many men in NZ who take it as their right to beat, smash, kick, deafen, sexually abuse or terrorise a female partner.

You seem to suggest that name calling or abusive and nasty language causes the same kind of harm. It does not. But – combine abusive language with physical violence and it’s a wholly different scale of damage. It’s this – typically – male violence against women which demands our serious attention.

RL, perhaps you don’t believe that there are many men who are like this because you aren’t one of them, and because when you see men in the street or at work they ‘amazingly’ control this violence. Don’t underestimate the ubiquity of male violence against women and children, nor their ability to behave like decent human beings when they are not behind closed doors. The Women’s Refuge organization in NZ receives a call every six minutes on its crisis lines.

Research conducted in 2004 concluded that 33 to 39% of New Zealand women experience physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner during their lifetimes, and that 4.9% of NZ women suffered moderate to severe physical violence or sexual abuse at least once in the previous 12 months. ….. This is a shocking statistic…..

Whether the number is in the thousands or the tens of thousands, it’s clear that male physical and/or sexual violence against women is a serious cancer in our society. It causes physical damage, psychological scars and in most cases a lifelong legacy of emotional consequences.

imo – any discussion about the serious problem and prevalence of male violence against women is absolutely not an appropriate forum for “oh poor me” comments from (a very small number of) men who feel that they have been damaged because they have been pushed, slapped or had ‘nasty’ language directed at them from a female.

Once the scourge of male violence in New Zealand is fixed, then perhaps we can write another post turning our attention towards how to stop abusive language.

Pete George:

Redlogix has raised some very good and valid points. He’s right that men are mostly stronger and more likely to physically hurt and damage more. But they are not alone in relationships and they are not alone in relationship issues that tip over into violence.

There are different reasons for domestic violence. Some people use violence to impose power and control over a partner. This is predominately male with links to historical attitudes of men ‘owning’ their wife/partner.

Some violence is the culmination of built tensions in a relationship that can result in a violent act (that can be out of normal character). One reason for this can be that under pressure one person (usually male) reverts to a behaviour learned as a child, that you ‘sort out’ or react to behaviour you don’t like by hitting.

So far here it’s only been adult versus adult violence discussed. Adult behaviours are often learned in a child’s first few years. Some kids learn that hitting is how to deal with things, especially when anger is involved. Kids learn this off both male and female parents and caregivers.

I won’t and can’t quantify except I’ll acknowledge violence is predominately inflicted by males but not exclusively.

But saying violence is a male problem that must males must ‘fix’ before any other factor is discussed ignores the complexities of the problem.

And saying that ‘men’ must own the problem and deal with it can cause a lot of genuine indignation and anger amongst men who are non-violent – possibly sizable majority of men. If you want to see this try mentioning ‘rape culture’ on Kiwiblog. Some men may use indignation to mask their guilt but others are offended to be blanket included in a problem they abhor.

Many non-violent men and women are not to blame for violence but have a joint societal responsibility to do something about our problems with violence. Kelvin Davis recognises this so is speaking up about the problem, as do others.

Shaming and bullying men (and women) who are not violent into silence or quiet compliance with a ‘men bad, women victims’ approach alienates potential allies in attempts to address our problems with violence. The more voices against violence the better to make it clear to the sizable minority of violent people that it is not acceptable.

It’s a very difficult and touchy topic because many people have physical and psychological scars from violence. However we need to avoid fighting against each other and find ways of working together to reduce violence and the many things that contribute to violence.

Pete George:

As a rule each gender, when under threat resorts to the weapon that lies nearest to hand.

That’s a fair point, but it can get very complicated.

Women should be encouraged and helped to remove themselves and their children from violent relationships and situations (so should men). But threats to remove a father’s rights to have access to his kids has been reported as a weapon too. In some cases threats – or perceptions of threats and this can get complicated in the heat of battle – could escalate into self fulfilling prophesies as tensions and emotions boil over.

It’s complicated, as anyone who has experienced relationship difficulties will know. The other partner is not the only one who has been imperfect. And the weapons (or defences or what you want to call them) either uses can contribute to the conflict.

There’s no excuse to resorting to violence (in general, there are exceptions), but there can be many reasons for it happening.

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

[Volume:639;Page:9284]

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.

http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/pb/debates/debates/speeches/48HansS_20070516_00001048/bradford-sue-crimes-substituted-section-59-amendment

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

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