Domestic violence agency concerned after increasing number of guns involved in family harm incidents

A domestic violence agency said the level of abuse is escalating as guns become increasingly involved in family violence.

Shine said they are majorly concerned with the escalating domestic violence as there were 172,727 reported family harm incidents in 2021, an almost five percent increase from 2020.

The agency said the stresses from the pandemic are adding to the complexity of family violence.

"The COVID-19 pandemic, the stress of lockdowns, housing insecurity and the rising cost of living are adding to the complexity of family violence and further reducing the choices people have available to them. 

"We're concerned by the complexity and severity of incidents, particularly in relation to the latest New Zealand Police statistics," Shine Senior Family Violence Adviser and Light It Orange spokesperson Rachel Kain said.

Alarmingly a large number of family harm incidents involved guns. Nearly 500 of the 4212 firearms-related occurrences reported were related to family harm and 31 victims suffered firearm-related domestic abuse.

"Thirty-one people suffering violent firearm-related domestic assault is thirty-one too many," Kain said.

One of them was Shay* who almost died in a gun-related assault.

During the assault that lasted over an hour, Shay's former partner repeatedly pushed her to the floor, strangled her and held his gun against her throat. 

She suffered two brain bleeds, a concussion that lasted months, burst blood vessels in her eyes, torn ligaments in her elbow, lacerations and bruises all over her body. 

"The blood vessels in my eyes popped so literally the whole whites of my eyes were red, I looked like a devil and that was from the strangulation. That is how they [medical professionals] knew how close I was to being gone, because of the state of my eyes," she told Shine.

The medical recovery took months and she is still healing from the psychological impacts.

"I know what it’s like to be under an extreme level of control, but the truth is, no matter how afraid you are, reach out to someone and get the support and assistance you need to get out," she said.

Shine said they are hearing many more stories like Shay's and worryingly the agency is seeing an increase in the number of young clients referred to or reaching out to their services.

Shine provides support for victims from the initial crisis response through to long term recovery. They are asking for help to continue to provide care for people escaping horrific situations.

"With one in three women in New Zealand experiencing physical or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime, chances are it’s happened to someone you know, and your donation could be helping your friend, neighbour, colleague or family member."

Light it Orange is Shine’s annual fundraising appeal, and this year the focus of the campaign is for Kiwis to understand how their donations to Light It Orange help to "Stop the Violence". 

*Shay's name has been changed to protect the victim’s identity.