Domestic violence survivor calls on the Govt for more help during pandemic

Domestic violence rose in New Zealand during the COVID-19 lockdown with victims left trapped in their homes with their abuser.
Domestic violence rose in New Zealand during the COVID-19 lockdown with victims left trapped in their homes with their abuser. Photo credit: Getty

A survivor of domestic violence is calling on the Government to relax evidential requirements for migrant women as incidents spike during lockdown.

While many New Zealanders have used coronavirus lockdown to spend quality time with family, victims of family violence have been suffering in silence.

A survivor of domestic abuse, who wished to remain anonymous, told Newshub the pandemic means victims are now stuck with their abuser even more than normal.

"I think they would be really scared and it would be the worst time for them, because I remember the weekends and holidays for me. I would start panicking - I'd think, 'Oh my god ,the weekend is coming and he'll be at home.'

"Things really escalate when that person is locked in the home with you. With COVID-19 and you are locked in this house and you can't go out - it would be really terrifying."

The woman says it's even harder for migrant victims, who feel they have to stay with their abusers to stay in New Zealand.

"Women whose visa status depends on their husband is the biggest worry," she said. "This is the biggest threat the abusive partner gives: 'I'll cancel your visa.'"

But after suffering herself, this woman says there is hope and a way out.

"[They think] how will I do it? I can't do it,' but you can do it."

Her plea to the Government is to make it a little easier for women when they finally muster up the courage to do that.

In Thursday's Budget the Government announced a funding boost for migrant women refugees and more support for family violence services.

"Refuges, helplines, crisis services and many other organisations sit at the heart of our response to families who are experiencing violence," said Jan Logie, Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice.

"At a time of national crisis, we have never needed them more. We know this crisis has increased pressure to New Zealand families and that more victims are isolated. It's right that we respond properly to this. As a Government, we have committed to end this violence."

But two New Zealand lawyers told Newshub language barriers and limited access to online resources make it difficult for women to get the documents they need.

Community Lawyer Sarah Croskery-Hewitt says the funding boost for migrant women's refuges isn't likely to resolve the difficulties they have collecting the evidence Immigration NZ requires.

She says the problem is more with Immigration's very restrictive list of acceptable evidence.

Croskery-Hewitt believes the Budget is another indication of how out-of-step immigration policy is with the Government's broader efforts to respond to family violence. 

Alastair McClymont from McClymont & Associates agrees, saying there is a long list of boxes to tick for an immigration case.

"When you are in a domestic violence situation the situation will be exacerbated by hundreds of thousands of times more because people are fearing for their own lives."

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)
  • Shakti Community Council (domestic violence)- 0800 742 584