Reconciliation or Rule of Law?
If a man by the name of Sione beats on another male outside a bar or at his workplace, bashes the male victim on the head, urinates on him and then rapes him – what do you think will happen to Sione?
If Sione goes and robs a bank in Nuku’alofa and smashes a few of the employees while doing it, what do you think will happen to Sione?
If Sione swears and verbally abuses his colleagues at work or his employer and throws a cup at his employer or work collegue – what do you think will happen to Sione? It is highly likely that Sione will be pressed with charges and inevitably Sione will appear in court to face charges.
Now if the same Sione treats his wife and children with the same behaviour at home – what do you think will happen to Sione?
Evidence indicates that reconciliation between Sione and his family will be urged. This pressure to reconcile comes from all parts of society – the extended family, the Police, the Church, the economy and even the law which is not specifically designed to deal with family violence. The result of this is that the charges made against her violent husband, partner or male perpetrator are dropped - preventing the case from reaching court.
If is it a case of pro-reconciliation, the question is: what kind of a relationship are we re-uniting? Abusive relationships are based on a power and control dynamic, in which both parties are not viewed as equals. Research has indicated that the cycle of violence – in which a process of tension building, abuse, and reconciliation takes place – will continue unless something is done to break this pattern. As reconciliation is a part of this process, should we really be encouraging it? Police and Crown Law see perpetrators who reconcile being reported again, and cycling through the court process, again and again and again. We are wasting time, resources and causing a lot of stress for those involved.
Of the 2,753 women who have reported physical abuse to the Police since the year 2000, less than half - 1304 (47%) have ended up in convictions. It is common to see the perpetrators who go through the court system and end up with a reconciliation outcome back in the box, wasting the time and resources of the court. Then consider the number
of unreported cases that obviously do not make it to court. 80% of WCCC clients report that pressure to reconcile is the primary reason that they have returned to an abusive relationship. It is clear that committing crimes against those in your own home are less likely to be convicted than those committed against other parties.
The prevailing question in all of this: is justice being served? Can we really call this situation fair?
Are the crimes that Sione commits against his family any less than the crimes he commits against a person he is not in a domestic relationship with? Dare I suggest that the vulnerability of women and children makes this crime even more serious?
We need to stop viewing violence against women and children as minor crimes – crimes that can be solved outside the rule of law. The effects of domestic violence, sexual assault and rape are long lasting and serious and we need to have institutions that recognise the severity of these crimes.
It is simply not acceptable to resolve these issues in a way that causes the “least harm” to the family unit, because in effect this protects the perpetrator from receiving justice for the crimes that they have committed. It is not acceptable to use excuses such as “the perpetrator was provoked” or that “she was asking for it”.
Part of the reconciliation process should in fact include the process and procedures of the rule of law. The No Drop Policy of the Ministry of Police is part of this process. Going to court and facing charges does not necessarily mean the break up of the family unit - it may however turn out a more positive outcome for the family, where the perpetrator acknowledges what he did is wrong and that he needs to face the consequences and prove to his family that he is willing to be a better person.
It sounds obvious but think about why the following statement needs to be said - violence against women and children is a crime. It is time the community recognised the severity of crimes in the home.