New anti-abuse laws may penalise women – Te Kupenga

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Te Kupenga the National Network of Stopping Violence is concerned that new laws aimed at preventing child abuse may unfairly penalise women.

The Government is fast-tracking legislation to further protect children from assault, neglect and ill-treatment. The bill creates a new offence of failure to protect a child or vulnerable adult knowing they are at risk and will apply to anyone over 18 living in the same household or closely connected with the family.

Te Kupenga is a network of 39 independent community-based organisations from Whangarei to Invercargill working to end violence and abuse in families.

National manager Brian Gardner says any strengthening of the laws which protects the most vulnerable members of society is welcomed.

While the proposed law may hold accountable household members who do not notify authorities of abuse, Mr Gardner says it fails to acknowledge that there are many reasons why women stay with someone who has been violent towards them or their children.

Family members who are experiencing physical, sexual or psychological violence are often scared, frightened, threatened and intimidated as well as feeling ashamed and isolated from their support networks.

Women stay in abusive relationships because they take his threats very seriously, are often fearful of the inconsistent responses of the justice system as well as Child, Youth and Family, and may not feel safe to report the abuse to the authorities.

Te Kupenga welcomes legislative changes to make perpetrators accountable but the Government needs to ensure that people are informed and feel safe to report abuse that it is okay to ask for help.

For more information about Te Kupenga, go to the website www.nnsvs.org.nz

For more information including interviews, contact Brian Gardner on +64 4 802 6404, mobile +64 274 529 556 or email brian.gardner@nnsvs.org.nz; or Te Kupenga communications advisor Vanessa Bidois on +64 4 802 5403, mobile +64 21 928 007 or email vanessa.bidois@nnsvs.org.nz.

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