Assaults on children increase by 31 percent
While total assault-related offences have dropped by 5 percent, assaults against children have increased 31 percent from 2010 to 2011.
There were 1770 total child assault offences in 2011, up from 1351 in 2010.
Assaults with a weapon, resulting in injury to the child, have doubled, a 98 percent increase from 2010 to 2011.
Since the outlawing of physical punishment in 2007, the number of assaults on a child recorded by police has grown by 87 percent.
Pauline Gulliver of the Family Violence Clearing House says research indicates violence against children under five is mainly committed by family members or people living in the same house as the child.
Child advocacy group Jigsaw says the rise in figures may be attributed to higher reporting of child abuse rather than an actual rise in violence against children.
Jigsaw chief executive Sally Christie says she thinks there is more notification of abuse because people have been encouraged to see it as their business when there is a concern about the welfare of a child.
“I think there’s more prosecutions of the serious assaults and that’s good because people need both to be held to account and to be assisted to change those kind of behaviours that are totally unacceptable,” she says.
Despite this increase, police say offences against children are still significantly under-reported.
They estimate that only 20 percent of family violence is ever reported to them.
Even with this low reporting rate, family violence makes up 58 percent of all violent crime in New Zealand, according to 2011 statistics.
Unlike assaults on a child, some family violence crimes are trending downward.
Male assaults female, a charge often used in domestic violence cases, has declined by a total of 960, a 12 percent decrease from 2010 to 2011.
A full report on family violence statistics, including child abuse, is expected to be released later in the year.
Police media liaison officer Grant Ogilvie says there has been a change in the way family violence is recorded in the stats.