Parents call police over violent kids call police over violent kids

By KIRAN CHUG – Nelson | Monday, 05 May 2008

Nelson young people are becoming increasingly violent towards their parents, say police concerned that the passing of the anti-smacking bill could be contributing to a new trend in domestic violence.

Police say they are receiving at least one or two calls a week from parents who say they are being physically abused or threatened by their children.

Senior Sergeant Ross Lienert, the Tasman police district youth services and family violence co-ordinator, said some parents were asking police to step in to help them, because they were worried about disciplining violent children.

There had been a suggestion that the removal of section 59 from the Crimes Act which took away the excuse of reasonable force in disciplining children had “depowered parents, so they’re calling on us to intervene”.

He said the trend of an increasing number of youths assaulting parents had emerged since the launch of the “It’s Not Okay” campaign to raise awareness about domestic violence, and the almost simultaneous passing of the anti-smacking bill in May last year.

It was impossible to determine which had made the greater difference, but Mr Lienert said it was positive that more people were contacting police about family violence.

Police were trying to build a clearer picture of what was driving the increase in youth assaults on parents. They were going through their domestic violence call-out records to gauge the extent of the problem.

Police would then have a more detailed breakdown of who the offenders were in family violence callouts, including how many children reported being assaulted by their parents.

More education was needed about the anti-smacking bill but Mr Lienert said parents could still use methods such as “time out” to discipline their children. However, many were unsure of what they could and couldn’t do.

He also said it was possible that young people were being more violent towards their parents because they thought the anti-smacking bill protected them.

“Some parents have said, `We can’t touch them, so we’re calling on you to deal with it’.”

Police were witnessing some “very serious” assaults by young people on their parents, but Mr Lienert said these made up a small portion of the violence.

However, he said all forms of violence, including verbal threats, were a concern because they could lead to more serious attacks.

Upper Moutere anthropologist Donna Swift carried out a study of 500 year 10 students in Nelson in 2005, and asked an even split of boys and girls 40 questions.

She said the results showed that girls were more likely to be physically violent towards family members than boys, and that while 22 percent of girls had hit adults in their family, only 14 percent of boys had done the same.

Nelson Tasman Te Rito family violence coordinator Gayle Helm said addressing the problem of young people being violent towards their parents was “definitely on the agenda”.

“It’s a very complex issue and it’s difficult to pin down why it’s happening.”

The Te Rito network was planning to hold a “youth forum” for community organisations and young people to explore the reasons behind youth violence and how it could be prevented.

Mr Lienert said police had identified a need for a community-based collaborative programme aimed specifically at targeting the rising numbers of violent young female offenders in Nelson.

He said Ms Swift had developed a preventive programme, Turning Point, after carrying out a pilot project in Nelson in 2005.

Police believed it was the only programme of its kind in New Zealand, and was desperately needed in Nelson, he said. Ms Swift said it would require initial funding of $100,000.


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