Education can save lives

Nichole (Nicky) Barker

Nicole Barker was murdered by her violent partner who then committed suicide. The coroner Coroner Carla na Nagara released the report today noting there was a lack of understanding of domestic abuse. “Shedding light on cases like this will hopefully contribute to greater public awareness of the issues and risks,’’ she said.

Media Release
27 April 2012

Education can save lives

White Ribbon Ambassador David White

“Education can save lives”, says White Ribbon Ambassador and author David White. “I believe that educating men and women about the dangers women face when leaving violent relationships is vital”.

The coroners report into the murder suicide of Nicole Barker by her violent partner has drawn attention to the lack of understanding around domestic violence, including what to do when leaving a violent relationship. Something that David White is actively talking about as a White Ribbon Ambassador and author of Helen, The Helen Meads Tragedy, a book he wrote after his daughter was killed by a violent and controlling husband.

“A little bit of knowledge would have saved my daughter’s life. Too often women are not aware of the warning signs, and friends and/or family don’t know how to help. That Helen was killed so close to leaving and starting a new life is a tragedy. I want to make sure that no family has to go through what we are still going through,” says David.

White Ribbon Campaign Manager Rob McCann

Families Commission White Ribbon Campaign Manager agrees, “Campaigns such as White Ribbon have a significant role to play in increasing awareness and getting facts into the public domain. Currently there’s a lack of understanding around what constitutes controlling behaviour and how that can lead to violence. If men are using fear to control a relationship such as always knowing where you are, who you’re with, what you’re doing – it’s important to understand that these behaviours indicate an unhealthy relationship, one that can potentially become fatal when the relationship ends,” says Mr McCann.

“When controlling behaviours fail, such as when a woman announces she is leaving, that is when escalation can and often does occur. In the worst cases this results in death. From 2002-2008 there were 186 family violence deaths of which 100 were partner homicides with 86% of those being perpetrated by men,” says Mr McCann. “A number that is just way too high.”

In 2012 the White Ribbon Campaign will focus on debunking the myth that violence is only physical.

“We hope to get our White Ribbon Ambassadors and White Ribbon Riders out in communities talking about what constitutes ‘healthy relationships’ and part of that is to expose behaviour that is controlling and constitutes violence.  We realise that this will be a challenge for some men, but as a campaign led by men, we want our mothers, daughters, sisters, partners and friends to be safe and live in a world free of violence.

“Women’s Refuge has put together 10 danger signs of a violent relationship. We want to help make sure New Zealanders understand and recognise these signs. At the same time we want to say that most men are not like this, and with just over 30 White Ribbon Ambassadors out talking about what constitutes a healthy relationship, we hope we can educate by demonstrating good relationships,” says Mr McCann.

10 danger signs of a violent relationship

(supplied by Women’s Refuge)

  1. He wants to know where she is, what she is doing and who she is with.
  2. He monitors her calls, texts and emails, checks receipts and car mileage
  3. He controls her life and her choices even if no physical violence has taken place
  4. He isolates her from her family and friends and/or displays jealous and possessive behaviour
  5. He forces her to have sex, watch porn, or do things she doesn’t want to do
  6. He threatens or physically harms her, the children or other family members
  7. He has harmed animals as part of the abuse in the relationship
  8. He has used a weapon, like a knife or firearm to hurt or threaten her
  9. He has threatened to kill her, the children or himself if she leaves
  10. He has tried to strangle her (this included any kind of hold to the throat)

Don’t forget, a dangerous time for a woman’s safety is when she is thinking about or preparing to leave the relationship or at a time when the perpetrator realises that she is not going to return.

Key advice for supporting someone who is experiencing domestic violence includes

(supplied by Women’s Refuge):

  • take all violence seriously
  • listen to her story  and do not judge her in any way
  • be available to help her when she needs you and keep her information private and confidential
  • don’t force her into making decisions she is not in control of
  • suggest to her and/or support her if she wants to talk to a refuge advocate, access a safe house or contact any agency specialising in domestic violence
  • help her find the ‘making a safety plan’ advice on the Women’s Refuge website
  • tell a friend when preparing to leave a violent relationship but keep her plans secret from the perpetrator


Rob McCann                                                              
Families Commission White Ribbon Campaign Manager                            
04 917 7045 or 029 917 7045                           

 TVOne News coverage featuring Heather Henare


Women’s Refuge Press release for Nelson Coroners Report 28 April 2012

Heather Henare CE Women's Refuge

 “Everyone should learn the danger signs of violent relationships and know how to support and assist women when one ends,” says Women’s Refuge Chief Executive Heather Henare.

Ms Henare’s comments come in response to the release today of a Coroners Report into the death of Nicole Barker in Easter 2010 in a murder suicide from her estranged partner Thomas Hiki.

“Sadly, the Coroners report underscores the need for more to be done to raise awareness about what constitutes an unhealthy relationship,” says Ms Henare.  “While physical abuse is the most obvious sign, emotional, psychological, sexual and financial abuse are equally destructive,” she says.

Coroner Carla na Nagara noted that the case was an example of the “too frequently fatal nature of domestically violent and abusive relationships” and expressed her concern about how little is known about domestic violence “particularly when it doesn’t manifest physically.”

The Coroner hopes the case will raise public awareness around domestic violence and the danger victims face when they move to end the relationship.  She referred members of the public to the Women’s Refuge website and it’s free 0800 REFUGE (733 843) phone line.

“With the benefit of hindsight, the actions of Mr Hiki in the weeks and months leading up to Ms Barker’s death is like watching a car crash in slow motion,” says Ms Henare.  “This man attempted suicide, his victim knew he had a gun, the violence escalated physically, he verbally threatened the life of Ms Barker and he was depressed, all key signs that the woman involved was at grave risk of being killed by her partner.  What saddens me even more is there were several opportunities for some agencies to carry out a risk assessment with her, and this did not happen.”

She said Ms Barker showed she was aware of a potential risk to her daughter by ensuring she remained with her father.  “In this way she may very well have prevented her daughter from becoming a victim, sadly she underestimated the risk to herself.”

The Coroners report coincides with the launch of a Women’s Refuge ‘Be a Shero’ campaign.  This campaign is aimed at educating the public about 10 danger signs of domestic violence and how to help.

“People who want to help their friends, daughters or mothers in violent relationships must not blame them for the violence they are experiencing and in instead show their support and availability to help when she makes a decision to get help.  They can remind her that every main centre in New Zealand has a Women’s Refuge ready to provide professional advice and our website is full of information for helpers and victims,” says Ms Henare.

Two very dangerous times for women in violent relationships are when a woman makes the choice to leave or when the perpetrator recognises the relationship has finally ended.  “There are times in a violent relationship, when a woman needs to know the risks to her own safety, learn how to make a safety plan and take confidential and necessary steps to be safe when she breaks free,” says Ms Henare.

Contact Media Liaison Sue Lytollis  027 322 4688

About whiteribbonnz
White Ribbon is a community led campaign to end men's violence towards women

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