Increase in Cook Islands men seeking therapy for domestic violence

Rarotonga's only anti-domestic violence group, which mainly works with survivors of abuse, have seen an influx of perpetrators coming forward for therapy.

The Cook Islands Women's Counselling Centre - Punanga Tauturu, are now helping more men than women and there's growing concern tane aren't getting help at the early stages and are instead going straight to court.

Punanga Tauturu has been working to eliminate violence against women for over 20 years.

The group's Co-ordinator Rebeka Buchanan said the lack of early abuse prevention to help Cook Island families break out of cycles of abuse was an issue.

"More men are coming to us for help. The stats have shown we usually see more women than men, in the last six months that has turned. We can't sustain this."

Over the last four years, the non-profit has helped 140 people, but for the first time the number of women seeking help has dropped from 28 in 2020 to just nine so far this year.

Surprisingly, the number of men asking for help this year so far is 15, which is around the same number for the entire twelve months in recent years. Also, for the first time, Punanga Tauturu is also seeing foreign workers seeking counselling.

However, Buchanan was disappointed about the lack of communication from police and had not been "receiving referrals from them in the last two years".

Addressing domestic violence through a multi-agency approach was key to tackling the issue, and she called for the renewal of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with police since it lapsed in 2017.

In a statement the Cook Islands police spokesperson said the lapsed MOU was still in review - largely due to the ongoing personnel constraints within the police.

"This has been an ongoing issue for the past few years, as a result of departures and re-assignment of key staff. The Covid impacts from early 2020 did not help as Police have been subject to additional pressures, and areas to cover."

Buchansan wanted to see a collaborative working relationship with civil society organisations, faith groups, youth, cooperates and the community.