Police say violence in teen relationships is happening – it’s just not being reported.
Detective Sergeant Dave Beattie, who is a family violence prevention coordinator, said he had not dealt with any cases of domestic violence involving couples aged under 17 years.
However, he suspected it was happening, but people were not speaking up about it.
“We don’t see a lot of it coming through but that’s largely because it’s not being reported,” he said.
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In 2015, 110,114 family violence investigations were recorded by New Zealand Police. However, it is widely known that about 75 per cent of domestic abuse is not reported.
In March, South Taranaki man Eruera Tanmare Mohi, 23, was jailed for two years for assaulting his girlfriend.
The couple had been together since the age of 14 and were the subject of numerous family violence call-outs over the course of their relationship, which were attended by police.
Last September, Mohi was stabbed in the chest by her, leaving him with life-threatening injuries. Six months later, after he recovered, he choked his partner almost to unconsciousness.
While Mohi has been classified as being a “high risk” offender, who is likely to target his partner with violence again, the couple plan to reunite when he gets out of prison.
In Beattie’s experience, domestic abuse victims did not disclose the extent of the abuse they had suffered in past relationships, including ones they might have had in their teenage years, until they were older and had a chance to get help.
However, the impact growing up in a violent home had on shaping people who go on to become perpetrators or victims of abuse was real.
Another modern influence on the lives of teens was technology, including easier access to pornographic material via the internet.
He said this created a “new norm” in terms of sexual expectations in teen relationships which he described as “unhealthy”.
Sergeant Jeff McGrath, of New Plymouth Youth Aid, said a high percentage of youth offenders his unit dealt with had been exposed to, or lived with, family violence.
“Family harm is the cancer of our society as far as I am concerned,” he said.
However, McGrath said it was uncommon for teens to be charged as perpetrators of domestic violence.
He was aware of one youth offender who had assaulted his parents but violence in intimate teen relationships had not yet appeared on youth aid’s radar.
Sarah Maindonald, the New Zealand Association of Counsellors’ school guidance portfolio manager, said she had worked with a handful of Year 12 couples where violence had been an issue in their relationship.
But among the younger age group verbal put downs and psychological abuse were more common, with the targets often being within their peer group.
“Certainly there’s aspects of power and control in the use of social media and the way that young people use that in an abusive way,” she said.
Programmes are available in secondary schools which focus on teaching students the signs of sexual or dating violence. This includes the ACC funded programme known as Mates and Dates, which targets Year 9-13 students.
However, less than a quarter of secondary schools were currently using it, reaching between 15,000 and 20,000 students.
Do you need help?
Taranaki * Youth Service New Plymouth: 0508 496 884 * Tui Ora: 06 759 4064 * Tu Tama Wahine o Taranaki: 06 758 5795
Nationwide * If you are in immediate danger, dial 111 and ask for police * Oranga Tamariki/Ministry for Vulnerable Children: 0508 326 459 * The Family Violence information line: 0800 456 450