NZ’s ‘shocking’ child abuse record

NZ Herald 9 Dec 2011
Since the (Kahui) twins died in 2006, at least 95,200 children have been abused, according to Child Youth and Family. Of those children, 761 were either admitted to or seen by doctors at Starship hospital and deemed to have non-accidental injuries resulting from physical abuse. This year alone, 166 children have been placed on the “abused” list by Starship staff, already beating last year’s total of 157. CYF’s child abuse figures are also trending upwards. Notifications of suspected abuse or concerns about children have more than doubled in five years, to 150,747 alerts this year; substantiated reports are up 36 per cent to 22,087 cases. Any way you look at the issue, the numbers only go one way. Up.

But those in charge of the care and protection of our children at the highest level are pleased with the results. It may seem strange to hear child advocates at a national level saying a rise in abuse numbers is “great”. But they believe the spike in abuse numbers shows a society less willing to put up with its little ones being hurt and more inclined to report what they see, rather than an increase in the number actually being abused. “The way I interpret this is that the numbers are good news,” said Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills. “There aren’t more children [being abused], there’s better detection. I think that’s a good thing. Early detection means earlier intervention. It’s all good. These numbers reflect better practice and greater awareness.” But Dr Patrick Kelly, clinical director of the child abuse centre at Starship has a different view. “It’s not getting better. I don’t think generally in New Zealand child abuse is getting worse – but we’re not getting on top of the problem. It’s become worse in the sense that we see more head trauma in infants. Many have very serious brain injuries from being shaken or slammed or punched in the head. Fifteen years ago we might have seen two or three of those kids a year, now we see one a month.

Anthea Simcock from child protection advocacy group Child Matters says the figures only show part of New Zealand’s abuse story. “It is the tip of the iceberg. For every child who dies there’s probably a couple of hundred who are severely abused and probably 3000 who are suffering ongoing abuse. “The iceberg is quite significant,” she said. “My other concern for those other children who never come to the attention of the authorities is that those people are at risk of not using their potential, of not contributing to our society and in fact of still coping coping with residual problems from their abuse that result in use of alcohol, living in violent situations, not performing well educationally – and they themselves have no strong healthy models of parenting to follow. It makes it very difficult to break the cycle.” Mrs Simcock said she was “delighted” the figures had gone up, also believing it meant more abuse reporting and awareness.
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10772163

Domestic violence in city soars
Manawatu Standard 10/12/2011
Domestic violence in Palmerston North has surged 41 per cent, with police alarmed at the “scary” spike in strangulations. There were 2107 reports of domestic violence in the city between January and November this year, compared with 1487 during the same period last year.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/manawatu-standard/news/6120130/Domestic-violence-in-city-soars