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Family violence charities brace for increase in victims needing help over Level 3 lockdown

As Auckland settles into its fourth stretch in an Alert Level 3 lockdown, family violence charities are bracing for an increase in need.

Source: 1 NEWS

Police data shows there was a notable increase in family harm incidents during the various lockdowns last year, when compared to the same periods in the year before.

The most significant was during March 26 and April 27, when the country was in a hard lockdown at Level 4.

The average number of daily family harm incidents rocketed from 375 in 2019 to 506 for the same period in 2020.

Over the whole year, police were called to around 414 family harm incidents each day on average in 2019, compared to 450 in 2020.

As well as the number of incidents increasing, family violence charity Shine says severity is also increasing.

"Since April last year, Shine has seen an increase and escalation in the severity of domestic violence," Shine’s policy advisor Holly Carrington told 1 NEWS.

"We’re talking about women with serious injuries. We have seen no let-up since then."

If lockdown is extended past this week, Carrington says they're expecting more victims needing to access safe accommodation for themselves and their children.

"Whilst Covid lockdowns do not cause family violence the restrictions on people's movements and the remote working of many support services remove essential safety supports from victims while simultaneously removing oversight and sanctions for people using violence," she says. 

Source: 1 NEWS

"For women and children, safely accessing help becomes more difficult especially when you are living with an abusive partner."

Women's Refuge chief executive Ang Jury says it's impossible to predict what need they'll be facing.

"We've tended to see a little bit of a surge when lockdown was lifted rather than during the lockdown itself," she says.

"It's Impossible to tell, but what we're working on is that it may well be similar to previous lockdowns. The planning is in place for that and the resources are in place."

Police Assistant Commissioner Chris de Wattignar says families need to know help is there for them.

"We want to assure victims, people using violence and their families and whānau that the national helplines listed below have people ready to listen and help," he says. 

"You are not alone, police will take your call very seriously."

Support services may ask questions around Covid-19 risk "but rest assured, you will get the help you need", de Wattignar says.

Even after lockdown lifts, Shine warns there's been a long-term increase in family violence, calling it the "shadow pandemic".

"Family violence and sexualised violence escalate and intensify during natural disasters and emergencies such as the Covid-19 pandemic," Carrington says.

"It is also well-evidenced internationally, that this ‘shadow pandemic’ that has accompanied Covid-19 will not be shorted-lived. 

"Estimates are that the social impact of Covid-19 will remain for at least two years. At Shine we have certainly found no decrease since April last year."

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Poto Williams says there are many factors that could have contributed to incidents. Source: 1 NEWS

De Wattignar encourages friends and neighbours to keep an eye out and speak up for others if they have concerns.

"It’s everybody’s responsibility to speak out and keep each other safe right now," he says.

"If you think something is not ok with a friend, neighbour, or colleague, say so.

"It’s okay to call police on their behalf, as the person you’re worried about may not be able to speak up for themselves."

Carrington warns people to take care when reaching out to those they suspect are in dangerous situations.

"Check in on other people and stay connected, always be mindful that others may be listening to their phone conversations, or reading their texts," she says.

As well as family violence, Jury says they're beginning to see increasing levels of people "just being totally over it".

"The stress of lockdown itself is adding a great deal to what people are experiencing right now," she says.

"Lockdown is not a normal way of being in the world and people are just very tired."

HELPLINES

If you are a victim of family violence, sexual violence or there is someone that makes you fearful, threatens or harasses you, seek help as soon as possible. You have the right to be safe. The following helplines available for people needing help:

Safe to Talk - sexual harm helpline 0800 044334, text 4334, email support@safetotalk.nz

Rape Crisis - 0800 88 33 00

Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843

Shine - domestic abuse services free call 0508 744 633 (9am and 11pm)

Hey Bro helpline - supporting men to be free from violence 0800 HeyBro (439 276)

Family violence information line - to find out about local services or how to help someone else 0800 456 450

Oranga Tamariki line - for concerns about children and young people 0508 326 459, email: contact@ot.govt.nz

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 talk@youthline.co.nz

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

FOR INFORMATION ON FAMILY VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE 

Hohou te rongo kahukura - outing violence - building rainbow communities free from violence

Sensitive Claims for sexual abuse (ACC) - 0800 735 566