Frequently Asked Questions

If you don’t find the answer to your question below, contact the Information Specialist

What’s the definition of family violence?

The Clearinghouse uses family violence as an umbrella term including intimate partner violence (including intimate partner sexual violence), child abuse and neglect (including child sexual abuse), sibling abuse, parental abuse, elder abuse, violence against disabled people and so on.

See our Definitions page for more information.

What are the latest family violence statistics?

1 in 3 (35%) New Zealand women have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime. When psychological/emotional abuse is included, 55% have experienced IPV in their lifetime (Fanslow & Robinson, 2011).

There were 133,022 'family harm' investigations by NZ Police in 2018 (NZ Police, 2019). Note that an estimated 76% (NZCASS, 2014) to 87% (Fanslow and Robinson, 2010) of family or intimate partner violence is not reported to Police.

There were 90,500 reports of concern to Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children relating to 64,000 individual children and young people in the 12 months to March 2019 (Oranga Tamariki, 2019).

See more Statistics.

What are the trends? Is family violence increasing or decreasing?

Unfortunately New Zealand doesn’t collect sufficient, comparable data (for example, from research surveys) regularly enough to know whether family violence is increasing or decreasing.

Administrative data (for example, from police, child protection, hospitals, domestic violence services etc) is often reported annually, however this reflects levels of service activity rather than the number of people who experience family violence in any community. Most people don’t report family violence to agencies or services. Also, agencies tend to change their policies, procedures and how they record family violence over time. This can lead to changes in the numbers that don’t necessarily reflect increases or decreases in rates of violence. Similarly, it is not known how much differences in level of service activity are influenced by changes in willingness to report.

It is safe to say that family violence remains a very significant problem in Aotearoa New Zealand and that comprehensive strategies and investment are required to effectively address it.

For more information see our Statistics page.

Where can I find family violence statistics for Māori, Pacific peoples, ethnic communities, disabled people, the Rainbow community?

See the links on our Statistics page.

Research shows that domestic violence affects every ethnicity in New Zealand. However some groups are at higher risk than others. For example, a survey of New Zealand women found that the lifetime prevalence of physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence (IPV) was 1 in 2 for Māori women (58%), 1 in 3 for European/Other women (34%) and 1 in 3 for Pacific women (32%). Asian women reported a lower lifetime prevalence of IPV (1 in 10, 11.5%). Note that advocates believe there may be particularly low rates of reporting violence in Asian communities.

Differences in rates of violence between ethnic groups can be related to differences in socio-economic status. Again, family violence affects people from all socio-economic groups however groups with lower socio-economic status are at increased risk of violence.

Family violence can be experienced in specific ways in various ethnic and cultural communities and communities of interest or belonging. For example common dynamics, forms of abuse and victim-perpetrator relationships can vary. Effective prevention and intervention initiatives must be responsive to specific communities. For more information, see the relevant sections of our Recommended Reading.

Unfortunately there is currently no New Zealand data on rates of family violence for disabled people.

Where can I find family violence statistics for my region / town?

The number of 'family investigations' carried out by Police district are available up until 2018 (Our data - You asked us, NZ Police, 2019).

Data at a smaller, more local level is not provided as the numbers become less meaningful.

Aren’t women just as violent as men?

Humans are capable of violence regardless of gender. Violence against people of all genders needs to be effectively addressed.

Debates about gender and violence often centre around statistics.

The New Zealand Family Violence Death Review Committee found there were 194 family violence deaths between 2009 to 2015, with intimate partner violence (IPV) deaths making up almost half of these deaths. In 98% of IPV death events where there was a recorded history of abuse, women were the primary victim, abused by their male partner.

In 2018, most applicants for protection orders were female (87%) and most respondents were male (88%).

It is also important to recognise the people and stories that are behind the statistics. This includes experiences that differ from the most common patterns.

A gendered analysis of intimate partner and sexual violence also means understanding differences in the context, dynamics, meaning, and consequences of violence. See Evan Stark’s work on the ways coercive control is gendered for more information. See also other writing on gendered analysis.

Intersectionality highlights that other structural factors including colonisation, racism, socio-economic status, ableism and homo/bi/transphobia need to be considered together with gender (see also Intersectionality 101).

Who perpetrates child abuse?

A fact sheet by Child Family Community Australia Who Abuses Children? provides a useful summary of the evidence.

For New Zealand data on child sexual abuse see Child Sexual Abuse and Adult Sexual Violence - Perpetration by Gender.

Research is available on media narratives and representations of child abuse in New Zealand, particularly the disproportionate media focus on the deaths of Māori children.

See also these NZFVC Issues Papers (2013):

Understanding connections and relationships: Child maltreatment, intimate partner violence and parenting

Policy and practice implications: Child maltreatment, intimate partner violence and parenting

What causes intimate partner violence and child abuse?

Violence is typically the outcome of the interaction of a constellation of different factors: single factor explanations are not sufficient. Individual, relationship, community, institutional, social and cultural factors work together to enhance or reduce the likelihood of violence being perpetrated or experienced. Violence is also a behaviour which is governed by an element of choice, influenced by societal attitudes about what is considered acceptable behaviour. At a structural level, colonisation, gender inequity, socio-economic inequities and social and cultural norms all play a role alongside other factors.

Studies have found that experiencing abuse or witnessing domestic violence in childhood increases the risk of becoming a victim (women) or perpetrator (men) of intimate partner violence as adults. However research also consistently finds that the majority of child victims do not go on to abuse others as adults. Similarly the majority of adults who abuse or expose their children to abuse have not been victimised.

For further information, see the NZFVC Issues Paper Understanding research on risk and protective for intimate partner violence (2016).

What is the government doing about family violence?

Established in 2018, the Joint Venture: Eliminating family violence and sexual violence has the responsibility to lead, integrate, and provide support for everyone to ensure an effective whole-of-government response to family violence and sexual violence.

Information on the cross-government work programme on family and sexual violence is available on the Ministry of Justice website.

See our Clearinghouse News articles for more detailed information on government activity such as policy, legislation, working groups, submissions and consultation processes (filter by ‘Government’).

How can we end family violence?

Effectively addressing intimate partner violence and child abuse will require a comprehensive, multifaceted approach. It will require a long-term investment in policy, infrastructure and communities. This needs to be supported by an overall strategic framework. Partnerships between government, tangata whenua, services, communities, researchers, media and others are needed.

Everyone can play a part. More information is available from the It's Not OK Campaign along with E Tū Whānau and Pasefika Proud.

For further information, see the NZFVC Issues Paper Understanding research on risk and protective for intimate partner violence (2016).