Stephanie is the Rotorua Daily Post's education and lifestyle reporter.

United front on family violence

COMPLEX: Rotorua police say despite the high number of callouts locally, the family violence situation is improving because more services are working together to help. PHOTO/THINKSTOCK
COMPLEX: Rotorua police say despite the high number of callouts locally, the family violence situation is improving because more services are working together to help. PHOTO/THINKSTOCK

Rotorua police are called to between 60 and 70 domestic violence incidents a week but local police say the situation is improving.

Police say there's now an array of services working together to combat family violence but the problem is a complex, intergenerational one, and they are not naive, as they know many cases are still going unreported.

Family violence: 525,000 New Zealanders harmed every year

Watch: Family violence - 'Why is it so bad? I don't know'
Family violence: The hard facts

Nationally, police respond to a family violence incident on average every five minutes. Rotorua police family violence co-ordinator Detective Sergeant George Staunton told the Rotorua Daily Post police were noticing improvements, but there was a long way to go.

"I think 10 years ago domestic violence was physically more serious. It's definitely better than it was a decade ago but we are in no way underestimating the seriousness of the issue in today's society."

"While we are seeing more people seeking help early on, we still have many cases where people just don't know where to find help or cannot define their abuse. "For example, psychological abuse is not always recognised immediately but can be in the form of name calling, intimidation and breaking things."

Mr Staunton said the solution would not be a quick one. "It's intergenerational, to fix this we will need to play a long game. There are many more services set up to combat this issue than there was 10 or 20 years ago, and the key is to have them all working together to ensure every case is dealt with appropriately."

Last month, Australian and New Zealand police commissioners made a joint statement to say they would not tolerate violence against women and children and are committed to preventing and reducing family violence. The aim of the statement was to encourage the community and other leaders to take a similar stand on family violence.

Waiariki Women's Refuge chairwoman Rangianiwaniwa Pehikino said she supported the central messages made in the joint statement. She said in order to eliminate family violence, prevention and support services needed to collaborate.

"We are working hard to join forces with all the other services in Rotorua so we can wrap ourselves around these families and give them the help they need," she said.

"We are doing the best we possibly can with the resources we have but we never have enough money to cope with the demand.We heavily rely on the support of our community, which helps us continue to work we are doing."

From July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, Waiariki Women's Refuge helped 193 women and 264 children into its safe house.

"Women are not just being physically assaulted by their partners, they are also being psychologically and financially controlled. A woman who has to leave the home she owns for her own safety can't move forward because she's legally tied to this asset. It's more than just escaping violence, there are complex issues surrounding abusive relationships," Ms Pehikino said.

"We are seeing more psychological abuse cases than we are physical cases. You can see the bruises, you can't see the mental toll of your partner constantly picking on you and making you think you are losing your mind."

Ms Pehikino said the 2014/15 figures had levelled out since 2013, which had seen higher demand.

"I don't know why exactly the figures have plateaued, it could be to do with all the services working together to help women and children in violent situations."

The facts:
- Waiariki Women's Refuge helped 193 women and 264 children into its safe house from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.
- Rotorua police attend up to 70 family violence callouts a week.
- There's a family violence incident in New Zealand every 5 minutes.
- Where to go to get help. Ring 111 if it's an emergency or contact the Waiariki Women's Refuge (07) 349 0852.

What is family violence?

Family violence is physical, sexual or psychological abuse against any person by someone with whom they have a close and personal relationship.

Psychological abuse includes economic and financial abuse, spiritual abuse, controlling behaviour, threats of violence, property damage and causing children to witness violence.

A large proportion of family violence is inflicted by intimate partners and by adults abusing and neglecting children.

A distinguishing characteristic of intimate-partner violence and child abuse is that the violence can be a pattern of harmful behaviours occurring over time that can result in the victim's life being controlled by the perpetrator.

Family violence also includes abuse of parents by their children and covers abuse between siblings, and of older people by intimate partners and others.

The definition can also include violence by others who may share accommodation, such as flatmates.

Source: Ministry of Justice

Types of abuse

• Physical: including but not limited to punching, bashing, choking, slapping, pinching, kicking, hitting, biting, burning with cigarettes, throwing things, strangling, pushing, pulling hair, spitting, urinating, tying up, holding down, locking in a cupboard, using a knife/gun/belt or any kind of weapon

• Psychological: the most common form of domestic abuse in New Zealand and can be subtle and hidden so is often not recognised. Abuse includes manipulation, mind games, hurting or threatening pets, causing fear, stalking, taking away the capacity to make decisions, controlling or stopping outings/contact with friends or family, personal criticism, racism, lying, swearing, humiliating, brandishing a weapon, name calling, controlling what you do or wear.

If you're in danger NOW:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you
• Run outside and head for where there are other people
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you
• Take the children with you
• Don't stop to get anything else
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

• Women's Refuge: Free national crisisline operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisisline 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice:
• National Network of Stopping Violence:
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent.

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Take a stand - NZ is #BetterThanThis

New Zealand has the worst rate of family violence in the developed world. One in three women will be subjected to physical or sexual violence from a partner at some point in their lives.

Take a stand. Change your social media profile picture to demand that we are better than this. Right-click on this image below (or press and hold on your mobile device) to save, then upload to your social profiles. Or you can download the image here.

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