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Time to speak out against family violence

28 September 2007

Every Christchurch resident has a responsibility to speak out against family violence – that is the message from the Igniting Change – act to prevent family violence project launching in the city today (28 September).

Under the umbrella of the New Zealand Campaign for Action on Family Violence, Igniting Change is aimed at getting Christchurch residents to think about family violence and act.

Spokeswoman Annette Gillespie says with more than 70,000 family violence calls to the Police every year, this is an issue that affects everyone.

"Most people do not appreciate the extent to which family violence permeates our society. To put it in perspective, 70,000 calls is one every seven and a half minutes. And that is only a fraction of the story with thousands of incidents going unreported."

Ms Gillespie says it is time for everyone to wake up and stop pretending family violence doesn’t happen.

"Family violence causes fear, injury and death. Half of all murders in New Zealand relate to family violence and are preventable."

She says the most disturbing aspect of family violence is that many people turn a blind eye to this social issue; they consider it is not their business.

"Many neighbours hear screaming arguments coming from next door and witness partners being threatened in the street yet walk away and do nothing. Their excuse is it has nothing to do with them.

"With an average 14 women, six men and 10 children being killed each year because of family violence it is time we stood up and said family violence is not OK. Simply to walk away from situations or pretend we did not hear is unacceptable."

Ms Gillespie says family violence costs the country billions of dollars annually – the health system, justice system and has a huge impact in workplaces.

"Workplaces are often where the early signs of family violence can be detected which is why Igniting Change has identified Canterbury businesses as a non-traditional partner in its project."

Throughout October and November, Igniting Change will target the business community, hoping that by raising awareness in this sector, there may be a greater impact on helping to reduce the incidence of family violence in the local community.

She says it is most often that workmates or managers can pick up the first signs of when things are not OK for a person and can help.

All social service providers and community groups have already been identified as strategic partners in Igniting Change, a forum earlier this month being used as an opportunity to promote the project and promote partnerships reach a broad cross section of the community.

"Family violence is a serious problem which affects everyone. People need to remind themselves family violence is a crime, wherever it happens, and that drugs and alcohol are not an excuse.

"Family violence causes families to break up and jeopardises children’s health and education. It is not acceptable. Everyone has a responsibility to take action and take it now before it is too late."

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