I used to love a grisly crime novel.
Dogged detectives and clue-laden crime scenes, innocent victims and terrible killers.
Like a lot of readers in my generation, the bookworm habits of my blessedly low-tech youth have been replaced by doom-scrolling news and social media on my phone.
I try to power down when I go on holiday. On a recent break I packed I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, which I've started and stopped several times.
The book opens with a crime scene in lurid detail. A beautiful woman murdered, her identity horrifically obscured.
A few pages in, I realised why I'd never made it further.
I wasn't missing my phone. I just can't read about fictional brutal killings of women and children anymore, when there are so many of them in real life in New Zealand.
Sam Shaylani Reid's partner brutally abused her in the days before he caused her fatal injuries at their home near Taupō.
Jessie Lee Booth was found slain in her home the day after her partner - suspected of killing her and, elsewhere, two other men - was shot dead by police.
Ferro-James Tiopira Sio's life was taken at just five years old by his father, who beat him severely in the Rotorua emergency housing they lived in.
In the pandemic, we have all been asked to spend more time at home to keep ourselves and others safe.
But home is not a safe place for all. Not for Sam, Jessie Lee, Ferro-James or many others suffering abuse at the hands of a partner, parent, housemate or relative.
Research has shown violence against women and children escalates during crises such as a pandemic.
Thursday was White Ribbon Day. Awareness and charity campaigns, in general, have struggled to cut through the Covid noise so many may have missed it.
But we can't afford to miss what continues to go on in our homes and communities. It's more vital than ever for all of us to be alert to signs that something is wrong, and seek advice about how to help without causing further harm.
The responsibility also extends to those in power who must make sure the protection and support services for people experiencing abuse continue to be accessible and resourced.
FAMILY VIOLENCE - WHERE TO GET HELP
For anyone experiencing family violence, worried about their own abusive behaviour or supporting someone else in these situations:
• If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 111.
• Shine Helpline – now 24/7: 0508 744 633 OR chat online with Helpline staff at www.2shine.org.nz
• Are You OK - 9am to 11pm, every day: 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Women's Refuge – 24/7: 0800 733 843, 24/7 www.womensrefuge.org.nz (for women only)
For anyone worried about their own abusive behaviour:
• 0800 Hey Bro: 0800 439 276 - 24/7 (for men who feel as if they're going to harm a loved one or whanau member) www.hewakatapu.org.nz/services/0800-hey-bro
For anyone who experiences sexual harm:
• Safe to Talk – 24/7 (sexual harm helpline): 0800-044-334 OR text 4334 – 24/7. Chat online at www.safetotalk.nz
ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE
DO NO HARM.
Well-intentioned efforts to communicate with someone living with an abusive partner may end up further endangering them.
ALWAYS be careful about communicating with someone at home who you know or suspect is experiencing domestic violence.
Always assume that an abusive partner is hearing or seeing your communication, and avoid alerting them that you know or suspect the abuse.
If you need advice about how to help someone you are concerned about, ring one of the family violence helplines listed above for advice.
If you are supporting someone else, even if it's not safe to be specific about your concerns with them, it is helpful to stay in touch with them, however that may be possible and safe to do.
Staying in touch with people outside of their bubble may help to provide emotional support, distraction and possibly time when they will be safer from abuse.
ADVICE FOR EMPLOYERS:
Employers can also find advice from Shine's DVFREE workplace programme about supporting their employees experiencing family violence during lockdown by clicking here.