Women’s Refuge Appeals and anti-violence chicanery
By Barbara Faithfull
21st July 2005
Women’s Refuge appeal week is here again, and once again generously helped along by Body Shop, with lavish displays of Refuge literature etc. and other persuasive materials.
Last year they also began a public petition for Refuge, calling on the government to increase its spending, and the N.Z. Herald of 5th July 2005 reports that with over 200,000 signatures, the petition had now been presented to Women’s Affairs Minister Ruth Dyson. Also that Dyson “acknowledged Women’s Refuge’s significant contribution to the community by protecting victims and working to prevent family violence”. Well, she would say that, wouldn’t she?
Last September I wrote a rebuttal to that, entitled Crisis in N.Z. Family Violence Services. Public Enquiry overdue : Let’s start with Women’s Refuge. Among others, I sent a copy of it to National’s Judith Collins, but apart from a polite acknowledgement I’ve had no further response from her on it. An abridged version of it was subsequently published as guest editorial in the March 2005 edition of the Christian publication DayStar.
Now, as well as all the concerns I outlined there about Refuge and anti-violence activism in general, I find even more to be concerned about : their involvement in a movement which seeks to link violence to humans with violence/cruelty to animals! On the web under AWINZ — Animal Welfare Institute of New Zealand — it is there for all to see.
I was first alerted to this astonishing new trend in anti-violence activism by an interview which Paul Henry conducted earlier this month with Plunket policy analyst Cathy Kern on 11th July on Radio Live. (Also Plunket’s fundraising week, incidentally) It followed a N.Z.Herald report on July 9th headed “Cruelty to animals by children could indicate sexual abuse”.
There, the anti-corporal punishment Plunket Society was reportedly citing “an overseas study” stating that various percentages of boys and girls who have been sexually abused “have been cruel to animals”. Readers were informed that the study formed part of a paper which Ms Kern was to present at that day’s child and family policy conference in Dunedin.
There was also vague quoting of “statistics” in relation to a jumble of “findings” of a highly suspect survey conducted of some N.Z. vets : “Of those who reported violence to animals, 9.6% also knew of, or suspected, abuse of humans in the same households.”
Ms Kern was then quoted as confidently concluding : “Everyone (sic!) is becoming much more aware that this is not just about animals. It’s very definitely an early warning indicator (of child abuse) and a call for early intervention.” etc.
On July 11th apparently Plunket had subsequently issued a press release, where overseas research was quoted. In the Paul Henry interview that day, regarding CYFS, he asked Cathy Kern : “Are they aware of this research? Are they aware there is a co-relation between animal violence and family violence? (sic)
Kern responded : “No. There is an initiative that was in America and the UK years back, but now more recently, 2002 at UNITEC in Auckland, and it’s called “First Strike”, and that is a group of animal welfare and child protection professionals, who are looking at ways that we (sic) can start to address this problem in N.Z., given proper funding and levels of awareness.” (emphasis added. Note her air of certainty that there actually is such a problem to be tackled and addressed)
Henry : “Sure, but CYFS, do they know that? If there’s animal abuse going on in the home, do they look more closely?
Kern (appearing reluctant to confirm this) : “It is an indicator in the list of many, many indicators that child protection officers are trained to —
Henry : “Good. It does empower these neighbours again to take action. It’s just, as you say, another indicator.” (end of interview)
So we appear to have here another ideologically driven, anti-family, mad-cap crusade by anti-violence zealots. At the above URL one sees that AWINZ is facilitating the First Strike campaign, whose objectives include cultivating “a public attitude that recognises violence without separating animal violence from human violence”, and establishing “practical support systems…..for fostering the animals taken from violent situations by women and children taking refuge” (sic. Note : no allowance made for male victims)
The Working Group line-up is especially interesting, listing an astonishing cross-section of personnel (including some e-mail contact details) from organisations such as Child Youth & Family Services (CYFS), Auckland SPCA, Royal N.Z. SPCA, Waitakere City Animal Welfare, N.Z.Veterinary Association, N.Z. Police Family Violence Unit, Women’s Refuge, MAF — Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Animal Control Services, N.Z. Companion Animal Council, CPS Training, Intervet Ltd., DSS Animal Management, Domestic Violence Centre (Auckland) UNITEC School of Natural Sciences, and last but not least, family law practitioner Catriona McLennan, who has prepared a report on the progress of the first two years of First Strike in N.Z., from November 2002 — 2004.
So to return to the beginning. Nearly a year ago I was writing about the need for a Public Enquiry into N.Z’s family violence services (see attached), and with a special initial focus upon Women’s Refuge. Now, more than ever, this is surely a critical need. Also, that petition notwithstanding, there should be less, not more, government funding to Refuge, as well as a scrutinising of all the publicly funded agencies now getting on the bandwagon in this latest highly questionable anti-violence fad, and a lobbying of government to prevent any direct funding of it.
You may even care to voice concern to The Body Shop for its ongoing generous support of Refuge, and undertake to boycott their shops accordingly while this continues. Their Administrator is Victoria Scudder at their Regional Office, 33 Bath Street, Parnell. Phone 09-377-1428, Fax 09-302-8355. e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Lastly — don’t give to Women’s Refuge!