Victim voices needed to change Government strategy

File photo.

Victim-survivor voices should play a central part in Government strategy to stop family and sexual violence, says advocates from a specialist group that has been running a survey around New Zealand.


The Backbone Collective is providing a safe and separate pathway for victim-survivors to give their feedback on the National Strategy and Action Plans being developed to eliminate family violence and sexual violence.


The survey, run by the Backbone Collective, is part of the national engagement by the government, which has been taking place around the country since May 12, and closed last week.


Advocates are adamant that victim-survivors’ voices should be the central voice in the creation of the national strategy and action plans that will be decided by Ministers later in 2021.


“It matters to value victim-survivors because they are the people with the most experience of how the system responds to violence and abuse, they know better than anybody where the gaps are and also about any services or initiatives that are actually working that keep them and their children safe,” says Deborah Mackenzie, co-founder of the Backbone Collective.


In terms of the identifying the priority actions for government to take, Deborah believes victim-survivors are the best and most informed people that can help us shape a national strategy that will make a big difference into the future.


“Historically the government has not been good at asking the people that use the services what it was like when they reached out for help and that is exactly the reason why Backbone launched four years ago.”


Backbone advocated to the Joint Venture about an alternative, specialist-led method of consultation during the national engagement period that would be seen as safe and trustworthy by victim-survivors.


Backbone is encouraged that the Joint Venture have supported them to independently gather the insights from victim-survivors, Deborah says.


“So often victim-survivors don’t feel safe engaging with government agencies, they have had experiences of having their information shared unsafely without their consent or knowledge, or they’ve had poor responses, or endured victim blaming language, or experienced not being treated with respect or had their feedback ignored.”


Deborah says the upside of engaging an independent specialist organisation to analyse the feedback of this cohort is that it safeguards against misinterpretation, so that the detail and nuances of the experiences won't be lost, diluted or shaped to meet a predetermined outcome. She cautions that gathering women’s voices is not enough.


“The challenge now will be for the Government to listen and act on those insights. The way the Government responds will show a very clear signal to victim-survivors about whether or not the Minister is sincere in her statement that victim-survivors will be central to efforts to change the government’s approach to eliminating and preventing family violence and sexual violence in Aotearoa.

Deborah  is also one of the Independent Advisors that Government has engaged to provide advice on the development of the strategy and ensure that people’s voices are accurately reflected.

“Backbone is really pleased to provide a different way for women victim-survivors to give feedback, we’ve created a survey format so that victim - survivors can give their feedback anonymously, we don’t ask for identifying information, but we’ve broken down the engagement material so that women can give as much or as little feedback that they want to do.”


She points out that surveys aren’t always accessible or appropriate for everyone due to safety risks, limited access to technology, English not being the first language or a preference for face-to-face meetings.


“Tāngata whenua, the disability sector, the rainbow communities and ethnic, refugee, migrant and other groups most impacted by family violence and sexual violence - it’s very, very important that there are a wide range of options available for victim-survivors to engage, and not just one,” says Deborah.


The government is supporting other specialist groups that work with victim-survivors in all sorts of ways from hui to postcards.


Backbone reports they’ve had a strong number of responses from women all over the country and will be analysing the feedback in-house and presenting it in high-level themes to the government to help inform the national strategy and action plans.


A full and detailed report explaining those themes and delving into them in depth will be written up by Backbone and made public later this year.


For more information on the Joint Venture go to:

Insights from the national engagement:


Backbone Collective survey:

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