Backbone women stand in protest today

Backbone Collective launched 6 months ago to give women who have experienced violence and abuse a safe way to say how the system responded to them when they reached out for help.

There are currently over 1000 women members and over 100 supporters of the independent unfunded organisation. Backbone is staging a protest outside the Auckland Family Court in Albert Street, Auckland City at 10am on 1 September 2017 making a public stand against the Family Court.

Co-founder Deborah Mackenzie says ‘We set up Backbone to give women a safe way to say how the system works and how it could work better. Hundreds of New Zealand women have told us that the Family Court does not respond safely to women and children when they reach out for help after experiencing violence and abuse in the home. Women are speaking up loudly and collectively that their voices demand to be heard.”

Deborah explains “We are protesting today to show the Family Court Judges, the Minister of Justice and Courts, the government, the media and the NZ public that the Family Court is abusing children by forcing them into care arrangements with an abusive parent. It is shocking and frightening and happening all over the country – it has to stop immediately.”

Ruth Herbert (co-founder) adds “There is a woman in the Auckland Family Court today who has three little children. The mother and children have a Protection Order to keep them safe from the abuser – the children’s father.

This means that the Protection Order prevents the abuser from being at any property where the children are or having any contact with them unless the Family Court over-rides these protections by making a parenting order. Right now that same Court who gave her and the children a Protection Order is considering an application for this abuser to have full time care or custody of the three children.

The mother has done nothing wrong other than take whatever steps she felt necessary to keep the children safe and give them a home. The mother is standing firm in her efforts to protect the children and keep them safe. Backbone supports her and all the people here protesting are standing up for her today too. We want her to know that she is not alone in fighting the madness.”

Deborah states “It’s time to stop pretending we are the safest little paradise in our far away corner of the world. Ruth and I receive so many emails and messages from women all over the country everyday telling us that the Family Court is putting them and their children in more danger. Sadly, many of them tell us they wish they had stayed with the abuser as that situation was safer than what the Family Court forces them and their children into after they separate. How can this be? How can the courts and the government continue to support a system that puts women and children in more danger?”

Backbone ran a survey on the Family Court recently and nearly 500 women who had been through the Family Court took part. The women in the survey had all experienced violence and abuse from their ex partners and all were involved in Family Court proceedings. They talked of their experiences of violence being minimized and ignored by the Family Court, that they were blamed for the violence. They told us that they experienced discrimination and were verbally abused at by Judges and lawyers.

Most shockingly they told us the Family Court forced children to spend time on their own with the parent who had abused them. Many mothers who are themselves victims of domestic violence were accused of alienating children from abusive fathers when what they are doing is trying to keep the children safe – 35 women told us the court had given the abuser full time care of the children. We hope this isn’t going to be the 36th case today.

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