Archive for July, 2012
Preparing for a Charity Fundraiser for Mothers Helpers, I switched on 1ZB to find that John Kirwan (who is honestly my hero at the moment when it comes to his own mental health and being a spokesperson for mental health) was being interviewed. But what was most astonishing to me was that he was being interviewed by Tony Veitch.
Most of us know that Tony Veitch pleaded guilty in 2009 and was convicted of “Injuring with Reckless Regard” when in 2006 (or thereabouts) he kicked his then-partner Kristin Dunne-Powell causing her spine to fracture in several places. Kristin Dunne-Powell’s injuries were severe enough that she had to use a wheelchair temporarily while she recovered. At the time, Tony Veitch stepped down from all media work that he was doing, but in 2010, 1ZB offered him a position hosting two sports programmes which has continued to this day.
Of course, in the past two years I have been so consumed with my little boy (now 2yrs and 8mths old) and it has to be said that his “I don’t want that one!” cries at the 6pm news make me cave in to his “Little Einsteins” demands. Not to mention the fact that I am yet to read through an entire magazine since his birth, and any newspapers I buy have ended up lining the recycle bin unopened unless I’m fortunate enough to grab a few minutes alone in a cafe… I’m sure you mums understand! So whence the delayed (2 year!) reaction to Tony Veitch’s re-appointment to broadcasting. However, after hearing John Kirwan’s interview by Veitch yesterday, I felt it was important that I write an opinion from the perspective of Mothers Helpers and I have been reviewing the information that has come out since Veitch’s trial including his own interview on Close Up and statements by Anti-Violence campaigners, the ‘It’s Not OK’ campaign and the Mental Health Foundation.
Disclaimer: Many people make the argument that women can be equally as abusive/violent as men and there are cases where women are abusive (more about what is abuse later) towards a man who does not use his physical strength to retaliate. However, in the case of physical abuse, it’s important to mention the physical strength that a man has over a woman – so even if she fights back (and often women do in these situations, which means that she feels “partly responsible” and “just as much to blame”), he has a clear advantage in terms of power, and is able to dominate and intimidate as a result of his strength when matched with a woman. It is that use of domination, intimidation and her subsequent fear and loss of power that causes her to feel vulnerable. But feelings aside, the facts remain that it is his physical strength (when used) that puts her life at risk. For this reason, this article uses the male pronoun “he/him” when describing the abusor.
I watched the Close-Up interview of Tony Veitch and what struck me was how angry and indignant he was. He spoke like a man defending himself. I would suggest that 80-90% of the interview Veitch chose to speak about how difficult the situation had been for him – how the relationship had caused him to become overwhelmingly stressed that led to losing control, that the media had printed lies about him, that he had lost his livelihood, that he had become suicidal. Comparatively, he minimized his own behaviour and the consequences that had for Kristin Dunne-Powell. I would like to pick up some of the points Veitch made in his interview:
The Court Sentence
Veitch was sentenced to nine months supervision, 300 hours community service and a $10,000 fine with the possibility of having to attend a Stop Violence programme should this be deemed necessary by parole officials. Fortunately, parole officials did deem it necessary, but overall I am shocked at this sentence. Veitch had kicked in a woman’s back until it broke, and he literally had 5 hours in jail. What does this say about us as a society in New Zealand that you can assault a woman to the point where you cause such damage as you might threaten paralysis or even death, but at the very least 6 weeks in a wheelchair suffering from spinal fractures, and yet the consequences are a minor fine, and a bit of part-time community services work? I believe that sends a very clear message as to the values in our country when it comes to Domestic Violence, and that we have a long way to go in this campaign. Sadly, the consequences do nothing to help Tony Veitch gain insight or accept responsibility. Comparatively, here is the testimony of Kristin Dunne-Powell of what she has had to endure as a result of the incident: Kristin’s Statement
Apparently, as part of his defense, Veitch had sought a number of character references including those from Susan Devoy and Dave Currie. It has since come out that those people were led to believe that they were providing these references for a passport application, however Veitch used them in court as testimonials to get a lighter sentence.
Return to Public Profile
Believe me, I am all for second chances when that person has hand-on-heart taken responsibility by acknowledging fault and taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again – however, this is not the case for Tony Veitch. Within a year of sentencing 1ZB had given Veitch a sports hosting position and he returned to the public eye. When a person is in the public eye, they are being held up as a representative not just of the company but in this case, NZ Radio and New Zealand itself. This was the argument given for suspending and forcing Paul Henry’s resignation when he made some offensive racial remarks. Personally, I didn’t think his remarks warranted that kind of action, but suffice to say that we seem to take racial ‘jokes’ more seriously than we do domestic violence. No matter which way you see it, for those that listen to his sports shows – and let’s face it, New Zealand loves their sport – Tony Veitch is a kind of role model in such a public position. We have to ask ourselves, if experts in Anti-Violence are less than convinced that Tony Veitch has taken sufficient responsibility for his actions of assault and violence, why then would we herald him as a sports commentator for our country? And again, what does that say about the values in our society when faced with 120 reported cases of Domestic Violence in Auckland alone – bearing in mind that these are only the ones that are reported.
There have been reports of 3 or 4 suicide attempts by Tony Veitch. His attempts were not following the assault on Kristin Dunne-Powell, but following public scrutiny and legal action. Each of them were dramatic and involved Police searching for his whereabouts, helicopter searches and so on. Therefore, each have been reported by the media. In light of the fact that I represent “Mothers Helpers” and we help mothers that are at-risk of depression or suffering from it, and believe whole-heartedly that suicide is not the solution, I will not seek to make light of these attempts. My only comment is to suggest that Tony finds a different way to seek help.
What I Would Like to See
I would like to see Tony Veitch take up the offer from the Mental Health Foundation to work with them in offering him support to accept responsibility for the violence in his past (and ongoing issues), to work on changing patterns of behaviour, and to become a role model to others caught in a cycle of abuse (often victim and perpetrator) to get help so they can change it. Only then would I support Tony Veitch returning to a prominent role in media as sports commentator. If you choose to work in the public eye, it’s important that you represent New Zealand well and without that obvious change in heart and in attitude, it should not be given to you.
I would encourage anyone to boycott his sports programme on 1ZB for this reason, and I’m surprised at John Kirwan for appearing on his show.
Are You OK?
If you are in a violent relationship or you know someone who is, there is help, information and support available to you. Click here for more information on getting help.
If you are worried about your own depression, your stress levels and uncontrollable anger/emotions, and how that is affecting you, your baby or your family – or you’re worried about your own safety or the safety of the children in your care, please Contact Us. For urgent 24hr phonecall assistance contact Lifeline.