Shining a light on darkness of abuse

Friday February 01, 2019 Published in Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor:

The work Punanga Tauturu Inc (PTI) does is so important.

People like Rebeka Buchanan are vital to a community; I know for a fact she gives people in dangerous relationships a place to go even when PTI has no funding.


So I'm happy to see the paper publicising her views about how when an assault case gets adjourned (and it almost always does), a defendant just goes home.

The implications of this are real.

This kind of coverage matters; as Marjorie Crocombe, Mereana Taikoko, and an anonymous survivor wrote in Akono’anga Maori: Cook Islands Culture: “We who have worked with victims of violence believe that we all need to talk about it, read about it and write about it, to encourage better understanding of the issue and how to handle it. Many of our homes have hidden the fact that many of our people are being abused and have been abused for years. Few want to talk about it, but we will all benefit if the issue is no longer hidden and if we understand better the damage that domestic violence can do to individuals, families and the nation.”

That said, I’m interested in the line in the story that quotes a police spokesperson saying domestic violence is caused by “alcohol, financial problems and the disruptive influence of third parties, such as friends, relatives, or ex-partners”.

I wrote my Master’s thesis about domestic violence in the Cook Islands and while I am far from an expert on the subject I did read a lot and speak to a lot of people who actually are experts.

One book, written by a Harvard professor and called “the most informative and useful book yet written on the subject”, argues that domestic violence is caused not by drunkenness or poverty (though these are not irrelevant factors) but by a fundamental belief system.

The idea is you only abuse your family if you’ve received social cues throughout your life that this is an acceptable way to deal with stress.

A lot of drunks don’t beat up their partners. A lot of rich people do. And certainly a lot of couples who have had “third parties” intervene in their relationship have been able to work through their issues without violence.

There are some really complex ideas at play in this conversation – inter-generational trauma, historical trauma, colonisation, patriarchy, media, the list goes on - and I think a lot of people who work in this space would argue blaming domestic violence on alcohol, poverty, and third parties is too simple.

It is my view, after talking with many, many survivors of domestic violence in the Cook Islands, that this is an urgent, community-wide conversation—one we aren't really having.

To PTI, the men and women providing support, to the churches, police officers, artists, healers, empaths, and everyone else working to shine light on this injustice: you are reminders that there is good in the world.

You inspire me.

And to CINews: keep the coverage coming.


Rachel Michele Teana Reeves

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