Silence Breeds Violence

Lizz Sadler and Pua Magasiva at the NZTV Awards 2017

The tragic death of actor Pua Magasiva following a suspected suicide highlights the need for family violence to be brought out into the open.

Pua, best known for his long running role in Shortland Street, pled guilty and had been convicted of assaulting his second wife Lizz Sadler following what we now know was multiple acts of violence.

“Lizz has bravely decided that silence is not the answer and is now speaking out,” says Rob McCann White Ribbon Manager. “The sad reality is that silence breeds violence. Being hidden allows the problem to exist below the radar. It enables perpetrators to continue using violence without accountability, and it helps to create a cycle of violence,” says Mr McCann.

“What we know is that if you grow up witnessing and experiencing family violence you are statistically more likely to go on to use violence. This occurs because we inadvertently teach our children that violence is a tool to get what we want. We also teach them that it’s ok so it should not surprise anyone that children go on to replicate the behaviour of their parents or caregivers.”

“By speaking out, Liz has said she wants her daughter who lived with them during the violence to know that it is not ok.”

I am also speaking for my daughter, Laylah, who lived with us full time and has been a witness to my husband’s ongoing violence – I need to have a voice for her to show her that this is not OK. As a victim in this continuous cycle of silence I do not wish for name suppression because this would silence me again, but now by those who wish to protect him and the system allowing them to do this.

“We must also ensure that it’s ok to ask for help,” says Mr McCann. “As a society I hope we would have forgiven Pua had he asked for help and changed his behaviour.”

“White Ribbon works with many former perpetrators and this is important on a number of levels. Firstly, they are often better at communicating with other men that use violence, and secondly they demonstrate that there is a healthier and more fulfilling path. Having Respectful Relationships founded on equality, respectful communication, flexible gender behaviour and consent creates better and long-lasting relationships that are not built on fear.”

“If you witness violence, or think something is wrong, ask if that person needs help. It’s easy to show you care about a victim, the real challenge for us is to help perpetrators change. We don’t know if anyone tried to help Pua, but as a friend or family member you can help break the cycle of violence by not keeping silent. You can show them you love them, but at the same time let them know their behaviour is not ok and that there is help available.

If you don’t know how to take action, White Ribbon has free resources available such as this video on how to disrupt other men’s violence .

Bystander Intervention
It is likely that many of Pua’s mates will have known of his behaviour or elements of it. As mates we have an opportunity to set the norms of what is ok and what is not.

If you hear someone say something disrespectful or display unhealthy behaviours such as harassing women, telling inappropriate jokes, picking a fight, etc., there are a few things you can do to challenge the language or behaviour. By doing nothing we are effectively condoning the behaviour. You can use one or more of the 4Ds;

  • be Direct – challenge them verbally ‘that’s not cool, bro’
  • Distract – get them to do something else, or ask a question of the person who is on the receiving end of the unhealthy behaviour to engage them in conversation (useful if you don’t feel safe being direct)
  • Delegate – talk to someone else about what is going on. Ask their friend/parent/workmate/boss what they think of the behaviour and if there is anything they can do to address it. Work together to see what you could do.
  • Delay – it might not always feel safe to intervene or challenge at the time, depending on the situation, so you can ask them later about whether they realised their behaviour was harmful, or ask the person who might have been on the receiving end how they are. (Adapted from – )
  • Watch and talk to others about this resource – Who Are You? (for older teenagers)

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