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Victim-survivor Voices Should Play A Central Part In Government Strategy To Stop Family & Sexual Violence


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 12 May, and closed this
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, Ms Mackenzie 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, Ms
Mackenzie 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.”

Ms Mackenzie 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 Mackenzie 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 andother 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
Mackenzie.

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:
https://www.violencefree.govt.nz/

Insights from the
national engagement:
https://www.violencefree.govt.nz/have-your-say/#informed

Backbone
Collective survey:
https://www.backbone.org.nz/surveys/feedback-on-the-governments-national-strategy-and-action-plans2021517

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