One in three women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence during their lifetime.
The World Health Organisation has warned that domestic violence increases during any type of emergency, and with people being forced to stay at home as a result of Covid-19, it's likely to exacerbate.
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The number of domestic violence cases reported to a police station in Jingzhou tripled in February 2020 compared to the same period the previous year, for example.
It's too soon to tell in New Zealand, but after talking to Shine, Women's Refuge, the police, and Community Law Centres o Aotearoa, things are about to get worse.
The Women's Refuge's Susan Barker says increases are being seen in pockets of the country, with 62 percent of refuges reporting an increase in demand. Others are reporting a small drop-off in calls for help, but this doesn't mean the level of violence has reduced.
"Ultimately it is early days, and it is impossible to predict the scale of any potential increase. We are preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best, despite growing international evidence suggesting this is unlikely."
A police spokesperson has echoed these sentiments saying they haven't seen a significant increase in family harm calls, but they understand that may not be a true reflection of what's happening.
What's really happening on the ground
The main issue is that it's really difficult for people living with abusers to find a space to seek any sort of help, CEO Sue Moroney says.
"We're certainly seeing a lot of precursors, such as issues relating to the care of children. Power and control are things you see that often lead to such things as domestic violence. So we're bracing ourselves for the worst once the lockdown lifts.
"What we do know is that it's all early days for us. It's not impossible for people to seek legal advice, but our experience is that vulnerable people just aren't accessing it."
At the moment, people can still access legal advice via phone or email - there's been a huge spike in employment matters, followed by family law issues, and then housing/tenancy issues, for example. But, as domestic violence is often very traumatising and sensitive, people prefer face-to-face consultations, so there's been a dip, for now, she says.
Issues relating to finance, and increased pressure on families could also be seen as a precursor to domestic violence - "there's no excuse to it, but if there's a tendency for domestic violence to happen within a household, added pressure sure doesn't help".
Moroney is particularly concerned for migrants in a domestic violence setting. Family violence visa applications for migrants are on hold - it means people suffering are at a double disadvantage. They're vulnerable because they're on a visa with their abuser, and their ability to stay in New Zealand is at stake if they're no longer living with them. "It's hugely worrying for us."
For people who don't feel safe to contact the Law Centre over the phone, people can access help via the Law Centre website, and there's an incognito function to enable absolute privacy. Same goes for Women's Refuge, where people can send confidential messages through their Shielded Site feature, which can be found on The Warehouse and NZ Post websites, for example.
What about protection orders?
Moroney says again, there's the issue of finding time and space to seek the help you need if you're living with your abuser, but SHINE domestic abuse services' Holly Carrington says protective orders are probably as effective as ever. In normal times Protection Orders cannot be relied upon to keep someone safe, and it's no different now.
Protection Orders don't necessarily stop the abuse, but it does mean that the applicant won't have to wait until they're in immediate danger to ring or contact the police. If police are contacted, the respondent faces potentially higher penalties because there's also been a breach of the order.
For those who are unfamiliar with protection orders, you apply for one through the Family Court and it's granted by a judge. Applications can be made through lawyers or by yourself, which may be ideal as they can be expensive for people who don't qualify for legal aid.
If the situation is urgent, you can apply for a "without notice" order, meaning the judge would make the order before the respondent is notified, otherwise, if an order is "on notice", the respondent has an opportunity to contest the order before it is made.
"If someone is living with an abusive partner during lockdown, while there's not many options to talk to someone on a helpline. There is still the option of leaving, and there is help available to do that.
"Shine and Women's Refuge helplines are still operating and we can help get someone into a refuge or other safe accommodation, e.g. a motel. Or ring 111 if you are in danger and police can issue a Police Safety Order whether there's enough evidence to arrest or not."
What can businesses do to help?
The Domestic Violence Victims Protection Act 2018 still very much applies, meaning employers are required to provide up to 10 days paid leave from work for victims of domestic violence, separate from annual leave and sick leave entitlements.
And crisis response services are considered an essential service so help is very much available. Shine, for example, offers a service specifically designed to advise employers on how to respond to employees who experience - and also who perpetrate - domestic violence.
If you've got any tips, legal tidbits, or appointments that might be of interest, please email sasha.borissenko@ gmail.com.
DO YOU NEED HELP?
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:
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz