Address to INNER CITY WOMEN on the launch of the ‘1 in 3 Be Free’ app
New Zealand is a violent society
We lead the developed world in our rates of violence.
I in 3 women in New Zealand will experience violence over her lifetime, hence the name of this app.
A former UN expert on violence against women called it an epidemic and if it was a disease, a state of emergency would have long been declared.
Dame Sylvia Cartwright, back in 2006, called it our ‘dark secret’.
A decade on, not a lot has changed but I am ridiculously hopeful that with political will and the absolute determination of passionate civil society groups and individuals, that will be turned around.
Let’s not get bogged down in the myriad of terminology that is used whether it is domestic violence, family violence, gender-based violence, violence against women, intimate partner violence or coercive control.
We need to be clear what family violence is and isn’t
Family violence is not a series of isolated incidents affecting an individual victim.
Family violence is a pattern of repeated abusive behaviour by an individual (usually a man) that is most commonly directed at women and children
The abuse can be physical, verbal, psychological, financial or controlling
We all understand what physical violence looks like but far more damaging over time are the other forms.
They slowly and insidiously feed off their victim taking away self-determination, autonomy, rights and resources that are critical to being a person and a human being.
They range from the put downs and name calling….. fat, ugly, dumb, bitch and whore… to limiting access to money, transport, friends, family, Facebook and social media.
It is also checking your texts, emails and knowing your passwords.
It is humiliation that could be sexual, physical or verbal.
It’s trying to scare you whether it is driving too fast, endangering children, pets or taking your phone off you when you want to call for help.
Family violence is not due to loss of control by the perpetrator through stress, alcohol or impulsive behaviour.
Rather the violence and abuse is highly controlled and almost always occurs behind closed doors.
Unfortunately, all too often women and children pay with their lives
Often these women and children have experienced violence ‘from the womb to the tomb”.
When I first heard that expression “from the womb to the tomb” I shuddered. The imagery was incredibly powerful and sad.
We also know that children who experience violence and see their mother being abused are profoundly damaged emotionally, physically and developmentally.
What is concerning is that we only know about 20% of family violence cases and it could be as low as 13%. Those are the ones that are reported to the police, stay at women’s refuges or pay the ultimate price with their life.
We have no idea what the other 80% looks like.
Not everyone wants to put their partner through the criminal justice system and call the Police. They just want the violence to stop
As it is, the police receive a family violence call out every 5 minutes.
If we had 100% reporting we would have upwards of ½ million cases each year, the size of Christchurch and Dunedin City combined. Our services could not cope.
We need to get to women with basic messages such as:
- You are not alone
- Abuse is not ‘normal’ in relationships
- Help is available
- The earlier you reach out the better
The “1 in 3 Be Free” app does exactly that.
The app which can be downloaded free to android and apple devices, takes a woman through a series of filtered YES/ NO questions about their relationship and at completion marks where their relationship might lie on a power control wheel.
The shaded area that is marked on the wheel is linked to a short video of what it means and there are links to support agencies in the geographical area the woman lives.
There have been too many women who did not recognise the early warning signs of an abusive relationship and by the time they realised, they were trapped.
I would like to acknowledge Lesley Elliot who has as a legacy to her daughter established the Sophie Elliott Foundation to raise the awareness of all young women, and their families and friends, of the signs of partner abuse.
In my opinion, this app is a game changer. It’s potential to reach out is limitless.
I would like to congratulate Deborah McKenzie and Inner City Women for developing this app.
It will be both life changing and life saving
You have developed this with passion, grit and the goodwill of many who shared your vision.
This is only the beginning. You know that and I know that.
It needs to be advertised on the back of toilet doors, buses and billboards.
The barcode needs to be advertised in schools, GP surgeries and on commonly used food items.
The All Blacks need to have it emblazoned on their shirts.
This is just the beginning.
There will I am sure future versions of ‘1 in 3 Be Free’ app with improved functionality.
Germaine Greer when she was last in New Zealand said that progress in gender equality had stalled because women were far too polite.
Your app is a call to action.
No longer will we put up with abuse of any type.
No longer will we excuse or minimise it.
No longer will we be victims or bystanders. We will call it out for what it is.
We will act because this app will give us knowledge and the links to groups that can help us.
For some time, experts in this area have been calling for an integrated model in how services respond to family violence.
Deborah I would like to acknowledge you and Ruth Herbert in your work in this area. Your authoritative thesis “The Way Forward’ truly was a blueprint and road map of how we need to change.
That change is beginning, but it is urgent now because the launch of this app will mean many more women will be coming forward.
Thank you for the privilege of being part of this launch.
Learn more about what the Inner City Women's Group does on their website (www.innercitywomensgroup.org.nz).