Community approach vital to curb domestic violence
Two Tauranga women are calling the community to take action to protect those experiencing domestic violence during lockdown.
Tauranga Women’s Refuge manager Hazel Hape and Julie Sach, from Tautoko Mai Sexual Harm Support, are concerned there will be a rise in domestic violence during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“Research already shows that there’s an increase in family violence when you're dealing with national crises or emergency disasters,” says Hazel.
She says they are already hearing of more incidents through their crisis line and from other refuges around the country.
“We’re really concerned that when we've looked at what's happened overseas in lockdowns there’s predictions of quite a steep rise in family and sexual violence in the home,” says Tautoko Mai societal change leader Julie Sach.
“We’re asking people to think about what it is that every family's going to need and challenge the people who are out there in the community, to do the right thing and be the person that their family needs for them.
“There's lots of stresses and there's lots of pressures, but it's really important that we keep a lid on the violence and we keep peaceful homes.
“It's up to the whole community to have our eyes and ears out. If you’re hearing stuff then don't hesitate to call the police if you’re really worried about somebody.”
Julie is concerned people who are experiencing any form of abuse may have limited access to the internet or a phone to get help.
“If access to the internet and to your phone is controlled, then the window of opportunity to actually connect with helping services is quite reduced. So we’re really worried about that.”
She urges people to stay connected if they have a friend, family member or neighbour who is in a situation that involves power and control, abuse or violence.
“If you get a chance, get a code word that they could say to you that would alert you to some danger so that you can get help for them.
“The other thing is don't put your concerns in a text or social media message unless you're really certain that the abusive person wouldn't have access to that device.”
Both Julie and Hazel say there is a lot of focus on what the victim should do but the perpetrator also needs to take responsibility.
“We're really all in this together, so everybody's got their part to play, and that includes people who use violence and are worried about their use of violence,” Julie says.
“Reach out now, reach out early get the support you need and then your family won't have to suffer further down the line.”
Tauranga Living without Violence is one organisation people can contact if they do need help, she says.
Both Women’s Refuge and Tautoko Mai predominately deal with women who experience abuse but there are men who experience it as well and Julie says the message is the same.
“There are men who are victims, there's far fewer of them but it’s still really important and use the same helplines and reach out.”
“There needs to be some challenging conversations around holding abusers to account and calling on them to lay down their arms and start protecting their loved ones,” says Hazel.
Police Assistance Commissioner Sandra Venables says while police have not seen a significant increase in family harm calls since alert level four restrictions began, they understand that may not be a true reflection of what’s happening.
“We realise this is a hard time for some families and we want them to know police are still there for them. We take family harm calls very seriously and we will attend.
“We urge people to call us on 111 if they are concerned for themselves or others.
“It’s everybody’s responsibility to speak out and to keep each other safe. If you think something is not ok, say so. We also want to assure people that support services are still operating.
“If you are a victim of family or sexual violence, or you feel fearful or threatened, please reach out. You have the right to be safe and feel safe.”
The government has also committed funding to provide essential family violence services to support those that need help.
Ministry of Social Development Maori, communities and partnerships deputy chief executive Marama Edwards says the ministry has $3.56 million immediately available.
“This includes funding to enable refuges and crisis services to work with police and health workers to provide safe accommodation and support to meet the immediate needs of people experiencing family violence during the alert 4 lockdown.
“If families need help with emergency housing as a result of domestic violence they should contact Women’s Refuge.
“The funding also enables police and health workers to de-escalate risky situations including providing accommodation for perpetrators to allow women and children/whanau to remain safe in their own homes.
Anyone experiencing immediate danger as a result of family violence should dial 111 and ask for the Police.
The following helplines are also available to support people that don’t want to call police in the first instance.
• Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 – 24 hours
• Tautoko Mai - 0800 227 233
• Tauranga Living without Violence - 0800 577 003
• Safe to Talk, sexual harm helpline - 0800 044334, text 4334, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Rape Crisis – 0800 88 33 00
• Shine domestic abuse services - 0508 744 633 (9am - 11pm)
• Hey Bro helpline - supporting men to be free from violence 0800 HeyBro (0800 439 276)
• Family violence information, to find out about local services or how to help someone else - 0800 456 450
• Oranga Tamariki, for concerns about children and young people - 0508 326 459, email: email@example.com
• 1737 Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 for mental health support from a trained counsellor
• Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Shakti, for migrant and refugee women - 0800 742 584 - 24 hours
• Elder Abuse Helpline 0800 32 668 65 - 24 hours
• Te Puna Oranga, whānau crisis line 0800 222 042 - 24 hours