Child Abuse in New Zealand
Child abuse isn’t just physical violence. It may be facing constant criticism, being degraded, or feeling fearful at home. It could be failing to receive medical care, being left alone unsupervised, or receiving excessive discipline. It might also be inappropriate touching, or adults initiating sexual conversations with children. Most child abuse occurs within the family environment but it can happen anywhere - at school, in the larger community, or online. The signs of child abuse are not always obvious, and abuse frequently goes undetected and unreported.
Child abuse in New Zealand is defined under section 2 of the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 and is the harming of a child by physically, emotionally or sexually ill treating them through abuse or neglect. This mirrors the Domestic Violence Act principles, however the DVA goes further to make it an abuse of a child if the child is exposed to violence. Prevention of such abuse in New Zealand is said to be a high priority by the New Zealand government as well as relevant non governmental organisations due to the prevalence of child abuse cases occurring in New Zealand, particularly when compared with other developed countries. This response is consistent with New Zealand’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child at article 34 – 35 which deals specifically with Child Abuse. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that New Zealand values it's children enough to hear their voices.
Although New Zealand once had a very powerful voice in addressing child abuse, over the last 20 years or so the focus in reducing acts of violence has favoured women more and more over other groups. Like the elderly and the disabled, children's pain is no longer at the forefront of New Zealand's violence reduction programmes. Many of the programmes addressing violence reduction in recent years purport to address abuse against all people, but in reality focus heavily upon reducing men's violence towards women, or women as victims. Women make up the majority of domestic carers however, and are more likely to be the offender rather than the victim of much of the domestic abuse perpetrated on the vulnerable. Female perpetrators are not generally addressed in terms of offender and abuse reduction programmes, and the abuse to victims is often marginalised because of a fear of falling foul of the feminist vote.
Abuse against children is not diminishing - the reporting of it is.