Attitude shift needed to curb domestic violence

By Alice Lock

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Maori Women's Refuge (Te Whare Whanau Purotu) manager Lynlee Aitcheson-Johnson wants people to shift their focus to the person using the violence and not blaming  the victim. Photo / Warren Buckland
Maori Women's Refuge (Te Whare Whanau Purotu) manager Lynlee Aitcheson-Johnson wants people to shift their focus to the person using the violence and not blaming the victim. Photo / Warren Buckland

New Zealand has a shameful domestic violence record, with police attending hundreds of incidents every day. Hawke's Bay Today, in conjunction with Women's Refuge, is turning the spotlight on the subject in a series where we will look at victims of abuse, how to get help and how the refuge works. Today Alice Lock tells the story of what needs to change and what the refuge needs from the community.

An attitude shift is needed to positively change community perception towards domestic violence.

Hastings women's Refuge manager Julie Hart said the only way to change the current situation is if people made domestic violence socially unacceptable.

"Twenty years ago you could smoke while you were waiting for your GP in the doctors and now you can't. We want the same thing to happen with domestic violence but for this to occur people can't ignore what they see."

Ms Hart said if people's attitudes altered then behavioural changes would closely follow.

For this to happen she said people needed to stop ignoring negative behaviours and have courageous conversations with people who are affected by domestic violence.

"If this doesn't happen then these behaviours become unchallenged and a change will not take place.

"People need to stand up and actually confront what they see, starting with men challenging other men, and families challenging their own family behaviours."

Te Whare Whanau Purotu, Maori Women's Refuge manager Lynlee Aitcheson-Johnson said attitudes needed to shift sooner rather later, as it was a huge socio-economic cost to the community.

"We need to shift our focus on to the person who is using the violence and not victim blame. People need to stop asking 'well why didn't she just leave'," Ms Aitcheson-Johnson said.

Ms Hart agreed that putting an end to victim blaming needed to happen and instead people had to focus on challenging the cause.

To make sure the women's refuges can continue to lead the charge in changing people's attitudes, help from the community is required.

The refuges only gets a 36 per cent contribution from the government so they are continually looking for ways to increase their funding.

Both Ms Hart and Ms Aitcheson-Johnson said they needed help with money, skills and time.

"An accountant who could help with our bookkeeping once in a while would be as helpful as someone giving a $50 donation," Ms Hart said.

The crisis line, which provides advice and support to women 24 hours a day, seven days a week, requires volunteers to keep the service running.

"At the moment we mostly need people who are willing to help on evenings and weekends and we will offer full training," Ms Hart said.

Ms Aitcheson-Johnson said material goods would be well received, as they often re-home whanau who arrive with little.

"Koha such as household essentials are gratefully accepted. Donations of firewood for next year, a freezer for our safe house, a vacuum cleaner will all come in handy."

Ms Hart said any household appliances, crockery, children's books and toys would all help.

"Any support we can get from the community is amazing so we can continue to help the women and their families."

With Christmas coming up Ms Aitcheson-Johnson and the Maori Women's Refuge are putting on a Christmas Day Hangi for their community clients and families in the safe house to help celebrate the festive season.

The refuge is seeking donations from the public of meat and produce.

To get in contact with Ms Aitcheson-Johnson and the Maori Women's Refuge contact 06 878 2042 or email admin.twwp@refuge.org.nz and to reach Ms Hart and the Hastings Women's Refuge email info@hwr.org.nz.

Where to find help:

• If you need help, support, advice or more information, phone the Crisis Support Line 24/7 on 0800 733 843, or the Hastings Women's Refuge office on (06) 870 6024.
• To donate, phone (06) 878 9519.

Hastings Women's Refuge pop-up shop: Drop off clothes or household goods to the shop, at 108 Heretaunga St West, from 11am to 1pm.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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