Busy summer for Police, crisis intervention teams helping women, children living with violence in unsafe homes

"Not everyone is having a lovely summer holiday - there are people out there that are struggling," Women's Refuge chief executive Dr Ang Jury said.
"Not everyone is having a lovely summer holiday - there are people out there that are struggling," Women's Refuge chief executive Dr Ang Jury said. Photo credit: Getty Images

By Monique Steele for RNZ

It has been a busy summer season for police and crisis intervention teams helping women and children living with violence in unsafe homes.

Christmas, New Year and school holidays can be a stressful time for some whānau - which the New Zealand Police say leads to increased family harm reports at this time of year.

Police said data around the call-outs this summer was not yet available, but confirmed family harm reports were generally on the rise.

They had almost doubled in the past decade - from 102,888 in 2013 to 191,640 in 2023.

Police iwi and community deputy chief executive Pieri Munro said violence within families and relationships was a widespread problem in New Zealand.

It included physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse, and was driven by a number of factors.

"Money being tight, increased cost of living, unemployment, increased alcohol consumption, difficult relationships with extended family, decisions about where to spend holidays all add extra pressure and stress at this time of year," Munro said.

Police responded to 22 family harm events an hour each day, on average, of the 460 total reports each hour of every day, he said.

The increase was being felt on the front-line of crisis intervention too, with the country's 50-plus refuges busy in recent weeks helping women and children in need.

"Not everyone is having a lovely summer holiday - there are people out there that are struggling," Women's Refuge chief executive Dr Ang Jury said.

"This is the period of time - from New Year to around when school comes back - when we tend to see our biggest spike, unfortunately.

"What we see is there's a lot of women working really hard over Christmas to try and hold their families together."

Dr Ang Jury
Dr Ang Jury Photo credit: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Jury said the high costs households were facing recently, especially after Christmas, were a challenge for many of those seeking help.

"We're hearing more about the financial strain, which given the cost of living stuff going on, is not really surprising," Jury said.

She said the alarming statistic from the United Nations that one in three women across their lifetime would experience violence was being taken more seriously in recent years.

"If they stop and think about that - there's a whole lot of people around them that they know that have or are going to [experience violence].

"Whether it's their mother, sister, daughter, their best mate, colleague, people are understanding the widespread nature of this thing now."

She said the refuges' approach had changed over the past two decades, too.

It was moving away from getting women out of toxic relationships and into safe houses, to not uprooting them and instead, working with them more closely in their own communities.

In celebrating the prevention work of She Is Not Your Rehab founders Matt and Sarah Brown, Jury said helping those using violence change their ways was an area that was "hugely under-served in New Zealand".

"We've got our crisis intervention service with the refuges ... but it's those prevention services that really need to be ramped up."

She urged people to have their eyes open for red flags of violence in their communities - and to offer help where they could.

"[I want them] to think about the people around them, their whānau, friends and colleagues, because it is happening around them, and people just sometimes don't notice what's going on, but they need to be thinking about that.

"Friends and family need to reach out and say: 'Are you okay? Is there anything I can do to help?'"

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: free counselling for 5 to 19 years old, online chat 11am-10.30pm 7days/week or free phone 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 11am-11pm Asian Family Services: 0800 862 342 Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm or text 832 Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm. Languages spoken: Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and English.

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

OUTLine: 0800 688 5463 (6pm-9pm)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Sexual Violence

NZ Police

Victim Support 0800 842 846

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape Prevention Education

Empowerment Trust

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): 04 801 6655 - push 0 at the menu

Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334

Male Survivors Aotearoa

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) 022 344 0496

Family Violence

Women's Refuge:(0800 733 843

It's Not OK 0800 456 450

Shine: 0508 744 633

Victim Support: 0800 842 846

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): 04 801 6655 - push 0 at the menu

The National Network of Family Violence Services NZ has information on specialist family violence agencies.