Big surge in violence cases

Saturday February 04, 2017 Written by Published in Crime
Nga Teinangaro at the Punanga Tauturu centre. 17012604 Nga Teinangaro at the Punanga Tauturu centre. 17012604

Over the past two years there has been a massive jump in domestic violence cases being dealt with by Punanga Tauturu Women’s Counselling Centre.


In 2014 there were 54 cases, that rose to 131 in 2015 and last year there were 133 cases.

Manager at Punanga Tauturu, Nga Teinangaro, says there are numerous things that have fuelled the increase.

She says one of the major ones is the economy and the high cost of living.

“The economy has caused a lot of that because of the high costs of power bills, rents, food, and clothing -those everyday things that are becoming unaffordable.”

People are frustrated and anxious, Teinangaro says, and many don’t have the appropriate coping skills or mechanisms to deal with everyday issues.

“In their frustration these people will go for self-medication – like alcohol and drugs - hoping they can forget those issues but it is still there the next day. Some people will drink again and again, until it becomes an unhealthy habit that will eventually lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and so on.“

Teinangaro says it is quite a common problem in most domestic violence cases referred to PTI.

And studies have shown that being intoxicated is a large part of the problem of violence.

Many of Punanga Tauturu’s clients are women and men coming in requesting counselling support.

“It is across society as the economy affects everyone here in the Cook Islands and that includes the Pa Enua.

“Now our culture plays some part in it. People don’t talk about these things because of the sense of shame attached to it. Sensitive and very intimate things are most often thrown under the mat. 

“For men it is often unacceptable to be emotional and it is accepted as the norm in our society. Therefore, they vent their frustrations in other ways.”

She says in severe cases of depression a person may need a psychologist’s, or psychiatrists, assessment and intense counselling with the experts all working together to enable the person to progress forward.

Punanga Tauturu is currently facing a major financial problem as it is at the end of its funding cycle and has been waiting on government funding for months.

“Our budget is from social-impact funding and, last year, gender-project funding. Because we are a Non-Governmental Organisation we are dependent on that money. When that funding runs out there’s no more money. We are working for love and that’s good … to a point, but people have bills to pay too.”

 Punanga Tauturu gets between $150-000 and $200,000 over three years to run its services.

But, Teinangaro says: “We need a lot more. We are waiting for funding to get to us and we have been waiting for it for five to six months.

“We are so busy providing services to the community - because we cannot say no due to the kind of service we provide. 

“A person’s life depends on it!

“We don’t have time to fundraise. I’m so busy with all those clients.”

She estimates the service needs around $500,000 over the funding period.

“Last year I had 131 clients - women, men and children, who are victims or perpetrators of domestic violence.

“Funding is very hard. A lot of people talk about problem of domestic violence and advocate for education and elimination of it. And there is the problem … there is a lot of talk about it, but there’s no action.

“We are so dependent on funding and the government knows about it. It should invest a bigger proportion of money into us.”

In 2015 Punanga Tauturu  delivered 233 counselling sessions  and last year 276.

Depending upon the severity of the violence or their problems each client would need five one-hour sessions of help. And that doesn’t include the extra hours required to go with them to add support at police station or the court.

“You’re looking at 10-15 hours per client. And there’s added legal advice we provide.”

Teinangaro says she believes the workload on the centre will increase as more cases are reported.

“There is more awareness about our service and a growing confidence people have about using it.”            

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