How the COVID-19 lockdown has created a 'perfect storm' for domestic violence

Scientists are predicting domestic violence will "flourish" in the stringent lockdown conditions needed for New Zealand to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dr Denise Wilson, a professor of Māori Health at AUT University's Taupua Waiora Māori Research Centre says New Zealand's lockdown response to the COVID-19 pandemic has created a "perfect storm" for domestic abuse.

New Zealand will be at Alert Level 4 for a minimum of four weeks - this means all non-essential businesses such as cafes, gyms and workplaces have closed. People are urged to stay in their homes unless they need food or medicine. 

"Our daily sense of normality has suddenly gone, and our world has shrunk to the size of our house," she said in a statement on Thursday.

"No longer do we have the option of escape to work, the gym or other outlets when we are stressed."

Dr Wilson says it is crucial families talk to one another and figure out how to navigate their new normal.

"Everyone needs to talk, listen carefully to one another, and work out how they will signal to one another they need space."

Charities are bracing for an influx of calls with domestic abuse organisation SHINE saying the rise in violence will be similar to Christmas when families are cooped up together for extended periods of time.

In Auckland, domestic violence went up by nearly seven percent during that December period, and in Hawke's Bay police callouts doubled.

Shine policy adviser Holly Carrington says there's likely to be an increase in severe emotional abuse.

"There are a lot of people out there who are experiencing abuse who have never named it as abuse," she told Newshub.

Associate Professor Janet Fanslow of  New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse says the pandemic itself will not cause a spike in violence, but it will allow for abusers to have more opportunities.

"Self-isolation can mean the risk of escalated or more severe violence from a partner," she said on Thursday.

"Victims may also experience challenges to connecting with supportive people or accessing help in usual ways."

But she stresses help is available and will continue to be so throughout the lockdown.

"If you or someone else is in danger, ask for help. Helplines are available. Talk to friends, whānau and neighbours if you need support, or to see if they need help." 

Many New Zealand websites also have a button which victims can click to bring them to a range of domestic violence sites and helplines. The link does not show up in the computer's browsing history, allowing victims to access help safely.

What the button icon looks like.
What the button icon looks like. Photo credit: The Warehouse.

The button is a small computer icon at the bottom right of the home page for The Warehouse, Countdown, Inland Revenue, Trade Me, ASB, BNZ and more.

Where to find help and support: 

  • Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633
  • Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)
  • Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
  • What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)
  • Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email or online chat
  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666
  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)






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