Chapter 2
Understanding family violence


2.1Understanding why victims of family violence kill their abusers requires a broader understanding of the general nature and dynamics of family violence. Otherwise, the individual circumstances and abuse history in any case can be misinterpreted or minimised, which can affect case outcomes. How New Zealanders think about family violence also drives broader public policy decisions, including decisions around family violence intervention, prevention and punishment for family violence-related offending.

2.2As we explain in this chapter, understandings of family violence, within the community and among practitioners, are evolving. Recognising that previous understandings have propagated erroneous assumptions and misunderstandings, the Family Violence Death Review Committee (FVDRC) has called for a change to the way New Zealand understands intimate partner violence and victims’ responses.60

2.3We agree with the FVDRC that understanding of family violence needs to change. Underlying the legal issues discussed in Parts 2 and 3 of this Report are misconceptions that are outdated and unhelpful. The result is that victims of family violence may not be recognised as such (particularly if they have, on occasion, been violent too), they may be seen as being to blame for not having left the relationship, or the threat posed, and the overall impact of the violence on the victim may not be fully appreciated.

2.4In this chapter, we:

60Family Violence Death Review Committee Fifth Report: January 2014 to December 2015 (Health Quality & Safety Commission, February 2016) at 13.