The interesting debate about the Kahui twins provides once again the opportunity for New Zealanders to examine closely the sort of society we are all part of but do not want to accept as reality. I listened to the Children's Commissioner ,Rankin's comments on TV1 on Thursday night, 30 June, and although I wouldn't have expressed the view in the same way, what she said is true.
Middle class New Zealanders are very uncomfortable speaking about this subject and from my observations, men in particular. One gets onto the subject of domestic violence and child abuse and it interesting to watch the body language. With figures such as officially 120,000 interventions per year in the area of child abuse and domestic violence and estimates that this only represents 15% of what is actually going on, the size of the problem in New Zealand is a disgace. It could involve in excess of 800,000 interventions per year if full reporting occurred in a population of 4.4 million people. With this level of offending it is difficult to see how anyone would not be aware of possible instances of domestic violence and child abuse.
Hence I believe the discomfort people have in discussing the subject. By not discussing and dealing with this subject in a full and open manner it will never be addressed and another generation of domestic violence perpetrators and child abusers will emerge.
I will never forget the Maori co-leader, Peter Sharples, very early on attempting to get involved with the Kahui twin situation in an effort to get the family to open up and his frustration at trying to deal with what he discribed as a disfunctional family. This situation is not as uncommon as people would like to believe. Kids coming home from school not knowing which boyfriend/girlfriend will be there, whether there is food in the cupboard, no nurturing and love, no help with homework etc etc is not uncommon. Teachers deal with the disfunctional behaviour of kids from these environments every day. Some of these kids emerging from these environments are badly damaged. They feel totally unloved because no one has ever said to them that they were loved. They have no one to turn to except other kids in the same predictament.
The Police, Salvation Army and other agencies have to negotiate their way through these social disaster areas. They can't put their head in the sand like so many people do. They deal in the real world.
The first thing that can be done is bring this behaviour out into the open. It is not just a "brown problem" as some middle class folk think. The issue of domestic violence and child abuse knows no socio economic, racial or ethnic barriers. Crimestoppers can assist in bringing these behaviours to the surface, assisting the Police and other agencies. It just can't be left to the Police and other Agencies. We are all part of the community. New Zealand can deal with this challenge together.
This is a New Zealand Community problem which the whole community needs to be involved in to successully solve it.