Becoming Better Helpers: Rethinking Language to Move Beyond Simplistic Responses to Women Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence
Wilson, DL; Smith, R; Tolmie, J; de Haan, I
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The prevalence of family violence is a persistent challenge facing New Zealand. Its effects are pervasive, spanning multiple levels: individuals, family/whanau, communities, and society in general. A major challenge in effectively addressing family violence is the apparent disconnect that exists between the various agencies and services that interact with families/whanau where abuse has become a defining feature of their lives. Despite efforts by agencies to become more collaborative, they tend to function in silos. In conducting a series of death reviews the Family Violence Death Review Committee has found agency records to reveal a lack of shared understanding of intimate partner violence as a gendered problem. The records misconstrue victims’ and perpetrators’ roles and convey distorted notions about the realities of victims’ lives and the context of the violence they suffer. This leads to practices that put victims and their children at further risk. In this article we discuss findings related to the use of language and the concept of empowerment that need to be critically considered by those working with victims and perpetrators and those planning and designing family violence responses and services.