In New Zealand we consider ourselves an enlightened country.
We were the first nation in the world to give women the vote in 1893.
Today most countries around the world have followed our lead.
And yet in other measures we’ve been much slower.
In living memory marital rape was not a crime and something rectified only in 1985.
Even today we have problems we can’t ignore.
With more than 100,000 police callouts for incidents of alleged family violence each year, we continue to have too many people, particularly women and children, living in fear.
That number is almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg.
In recent years, a Ministry of Justice publication estimated that under-reporting of domestic violence sits at about 80% of incidents.
This suggests the true number of violent incidents could be as high as half a million a year.
Living here in Timaru it’s easy to imagine that these incidents are isolated to certain families or to other parts of the country.
They are not.
Domestic violence is here, and it doesn’t discriminate by geography or demography.
One of the biggest challenges remains in the stigma that victims have, of not wanting to be labelled, not wanting to be seen as having problems.
It drives the problem further underground, where it’s so much harder for victims and for perpetrators to get the help that they need.
It aids in perpetuating the cycle.
One of the great tragedies of family violence and harm is that for so many it’s a learned behaviour.
Children growing up witness violence between parents and begin to see it as normal.
Boys learn that it’s OK to hit Mum, and when they one day grow up, their own partners.
Girls grow up believing that’s what a relationship is, that that’s what love looks like.
one that calls violence out where we see it, where we say it’s not OK.
This week you’ll have the opportunity to do that here in Timaru.
On Friday from 7am until 2pm Te Rito will hold a free White Ribbon barbecue at Placemakers in Washdyke.
It’s a chance for all of us here to declare that ours is a community that will not tolerate violence.
That Timaru should be safe, for this generation and the next.