What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic Violence is identified as physical, verbal, psychological and sexual abuse within a relationship. It involves misuse of power, by one partner (usually man) over another (usually woman and her children) and includes acts of physical or sexual assault, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, throwing or breaking things, using weapons, damaging property or oneself, controlling money, isolating, threatening to withdraw immigration status.
Domestic Violence is a crime under the Domestic Violence Act in New Zealand . Abusers can be penalised with fines or imprisonment.
Victims are legally entitled to obtain a Protection Order to ensure their safety. Non-residents victims are entitled to apply for residency under the Domestic Violence Category. Residency or Citizenship of Abusers found guilty under the Domestic Violence Act is likely to be affected, in such cases.
The reality of a Woman's world in Eastern society
In Ethnic Communities, ' domestic violence' and 'abuse' is often normalised in marriage / and or culturally approved. In most ethnic communities, patriarchy (where men rule) is the norm. It is the male who makes decisions. The woman's status is linked to her husband, father or brother. Right from childhood, female children are told that they have to keep the family reputation - they are expected to be docile, obedient and retain their virginity until marriage. After marriage they belong to the husband and his family. Females are conditioned to believe that their primary role in life is to be caregivers for their children and that they have be obedient to their husbands.
In most Eastern countries women after marriage have to be obedient to her in-laws as well. Often, older women (like mother in-law) take part in the abuse of the daughter-in-law. Marital rape is not recognized as rape and women continue to bear sexual abuse. The social structure and culture combined makes 'abuse' seem normal and is hence accepted in society. As a result, the majority of ethnic women fail to recognise 'domestic violence' as 'abuse' and believe it is part of daily life. They do not see the difference between marriage and an abusive relationship and continue to blame themselves for their husband's wrong-doings.
Most Ethnic Women in New Zealand bring with them minds and bodies that have been conditioned to prospects of male abuse, if not actual abuse itself. Upon landing in a new country, far from friends and family who would have been otherwise supportive, Ethnic Women find themselves isolated and at the complete mercy of their male partners for whom intimidation in various forms, work as the most effective tool to oppress their women into submission. Some of the key issues faced by Ethnic Women are:
- Financial dependence on the men
- Inadequate qualifications / job skills
- Lake of confidence
- Language barriers
- Fear of living on their own without family / community support
- Implications on their immigration status, as many do not have a permanent residency status and those who do, have their status linked to that of men
- Concerns about losing their children and property
- Religious and cultural restrictions
- Fear of ostracisation by families in their home countries
Some of the other issues they face outside the family are:
- Discrimination in employment
- Ethnic stereotyping
- Sexist language and sexual harassment
- Lesser wages as compared to other women in New Zealand
- Prejudice and ostracisation against single mothers by ethnic communities
- Indifferent authorities with 'put down' attitude
- Religious compulsions
Action for encouraging safety of Children & preventing child abuse
Abuse of children is culturally accepted within the ethnic community and often occurs within the child's close family circle. It can be in the name of discipline, through neglect or through deliberate acts of aggression or sexual assault. Children are also abused through living with and witnessing violence between adults in their families. Shakti believes:
- Children have the right to be fully protected from all sorts of assault - physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, verbal
- Physical punishment is not effective and does not promote the desired behavioural changes in the long term
- There are links between attitudes to physical punishment and child abuse
- Full physical punishment models legitimises the use of force as a way of resolving differences and expressing anger
- Good parenting involves consistent and positive discipline
Women coming to Shakti benefit in three ways
Shakti is an organisation that has supported many women to get a fresh start on life. It has offered women in crisis a helping hand, a safe haven, a source for information and advice and an escape route from the cycle of domestic violence.
The confidence and knowledge gained through involvement with Shakti has inspired many advocates to move further along a career path into the social service sector. Such women have become qualified social workers with a grass roots understanding and cultural knowledge of ethnic communities. They understand what it can be like for a woman and children caught in a domestic violence situation and are able to adequately empower themselves and help empower others.
Shakti as an agent of social change. We challenge systems, beliefs and behaviours that oppress women. It is the actualisation of the eastern feminist movement in New Zealand .