The murder of Australian Hannah Clarke and her three children by her estranged husband continues to shine a spotlight on domestic violence.
The latest numbers available show the Bay of Plenty has the highest rate of family harm in the country - six cases appear in our courts each day.
It's likely you or someone you know has been affected by family violence and abuse - hurt by beatings, choking and verbal assaults, among other controlling behaviours.
What's fueling the increase in numbers, and can we do anything to spot and stop the violence?
NZME writer Dawn Picken speaks with victims, women's refuge workers, police and other experts who say though the problem is complex, we all have power to act.
Erin's story - "I'd wake up with black eyes and he'd tell me I fell over. "
Erin* still dreads returning to the home she used to share with her ex-partner. Her story includes similarity to Hannah Clarke's, whose husband climbed into her car, dousing her and their three children with an accelerant. He lit a fire and fled the car while they burned to death, then stabbed himself.
Through sobs, Erin recounts how her ex, Bill,* terrorised her, at first stalking and leaving harassing messages online, then breaking into her house while she was on an errand.
"Fire engines raced past and I just knew they were going to my house and I raced home and police were in my driveway ...he'd emptied a bottle of petrol through the whole kitchen, and as he was trying to light it, my teenaged son came downstairs."
Erin says Bill tried unsuccessfully to finish the job.
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"Really great neighbours who came after that, they tackled him, grabbed the lighter off him and held him until the police came."
Erin said Bill claimed he didn't know anyone was in the house and he was eventually charged with burglary. Erin says Bill still messages and threatens her.
"He knows where I live. Half the time I don't report it. What is it going to do? It makes him angry because I've reported it again, so reporting it becomes a threat to my safety and my kids' safety."
(We were unable to corroborate Erin's story with police by deadline).
Experts say it's common for abusers to blame victims for their violence, and Erin's case was no exception.
"He tried to say it was my fault, that I drove him to it because I rejected him and I wasn't there for him when he needed help."
Erin sees the same excuses time and again in the media.
"They [abusers] feel justified in their actions and every time someone comments on any post or anything publicly, they'll say they were driven to it because of legal systems or women withholding children."
She says perpetrators' justifications reinforce the lie violence is defensible. Erin says Bill has never apologised.
"He's messaging me saying he still loves me, still wants to get married and that he forgives me. There's no accountability."
Erin says Bill came into her life when she was vulnerable, back when she often drank enough to blackout. He used her addiction to manipulate and physically hurt her while they were together and after they broke up.
"He messaged me a lot, all day, every day, swinging back and forth between 'I love you, I can't live without you, you need me,' to 'You're fat and ugly; no one else would want you.'"
In the beginning, Erin was in love, unsure whether to seek help.
"It was never quite enough to report or anything. I'd wake up with black eyes and he'd tell me I fell over."
Early on, Erin saw signs Bill was quick to anger.
"One time I paid what he thought was too much for a steak from the supermarket and he didn't talk to me for days. He has an overly short fuse and generally what people would call controlling behaviour- wanting to choose what you wore, how you dressed."
She says when things finally boiled over, a women's refuge gave her support, providing listening ears, a panic alarm and security lights for her home.
"They were absolutely amazing. I can't speak highly enough of them. They went above and beyond. I'll give to that cause for the rest of my life."
Family violence epidemic
In 2018, police records show 13,219 family violence investigations were carried out (NZME has filed a request with New Zealand Police for 2019 numbers which could take 21 working days to process).
There were nearly 1000 more investigations in 2018 than the previous year and about 483 more than in 2016.
Of these investigations, 2213 cases went to court, which is the highest number of family harm prosecutions of any region in the country and an average of six a day.
According to the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse, one in three (35 per cent) New Zealand women have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime. When psychological/emotional abuse is included, 55 per cent have experienced IPV.
New Zealand has the worst rate of family and intimate-partner violence in the developed world and police are called to an incident every four minutes, according to an NZME article last year based on police data. At the time, police were making five strangulation arrests a day.
New legislation came into effect in late 2018, making strangulation and suffocation a criminal offence.
Previously, strangulation was treated as assault.
The Government last May announced a family violence and sexual violence package worth $320 million as part of its 2019 budget. The package seeks to enhance prevention programmes, improve responses to family violence, expand specialist sexual violence services and reform the criminal justice system to better respond to victims.
Those working with today's survivors say they're swamped with calls for help. They say we still have much work to do to safeguard women and children.
A 'violent and abusive community'
Tauranga Women's Refuge manager Hazel Hape says she's seen caseloads balloon in the 15 years (on and off) she's been involved with the organisation.
"There are many contributing factors, but at the end of the day, when you choose to murder a woman or a child, you've made that choice to do that. Violence against women and children is a choice. Violence against anyone is a choice. We work with men who have a range of contributing issues - drugs, alcohol, unemployment...guess what? They're not violent. There are myths around who is violent and what causes violence, but we need to stop making excuses ... It's not a lot to ask that we're loved and respected and safe and healthy in our families."
Hape and her refuge team see women from all walks of life, sometimes visiting them in hospital.
"In the holidays I've picked up women whose heads are double the size of normal because they've been beaten, kicked in the head, strangled, had their teeth smashed out ... I picked up a couple of women during the Christmas shutdown that had the sh*t beaten out of them. We're saying 'what's wrong here? What's happening here?'"
She says police, Oranga Tamariki, government agencies and other refuges step in every day. Hape says new laws dealing with strangulation help. Protection orders help. Additional central government funding helps (the refuge gets half its funding through government and half from public donations). But policies, laws and money alone won't stop violence.
"We try to do the best we can on the sniff of an oily rag to support them [women] and their whānau. We can only do so much. It's a community issue. It's everybody's business.
"Tauranga is a violent and abusive community. How do we know? Because of the thousands of women and children this itty bitty agency has been supporting 40 years. We shouldn't be here but we have to be here until violence against women and children has stopped."
She cites three homicides and a firearms death earlier this month: Police say Tauranga mother of two Jessielee Booth was found dead at a Brookfield property; two men in Omanawa were murdered, and a third man fired at police before they shot and killed him.
Early intervention, says Hape, is key.
"If you see a family member has been beaten, or see someone being abusive, say something about it. Don't just be silent. Don't wait til sh*t hits the fan and everyone wants to have an opinion."
Jenny's Journey - "He'd never hit me on the face, it was always on my arms."
The most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence, say experts, is when they leave. In one study, men who killed their wives told interviewers threats of separation by their partner or actual separations most often precipitated events leading to the murder.
Jenny* wishes she'd had a better plan to escape her attacker.
"I did the wrong thing. I told him I no longer loved him and no longer wanted to be with him. Tell women never to say those things, because that's when the final thing happens."
The ''final thing'' landed Jenny in the hospital. She says her ex-partner, Michael*, lay in wait one day for her to arrive home.
"He started attacking me, just yelling and pushed me violently and my leg broke. I didn't know it was broken. He tried to suffocate me, he sat on me and put his hands over my nose and mouth, pulled me around by my hair ... He did that for an hour. I was screaming, but there was no one around."
Finally, someone drove past and she screamed. They called the police.
"The cops were very, very good. They said I had to press charges against him."
Jenny learned Michael had a history of violence with at least one other woman, which was inadmissible in court. She says he got six months' home detention, a record police verified. Meanwhile, she missed two months of work. Physical recovery took two years.
Emotionally, she still bears scars.
"I was so frightened to be by myself. I just had a lack of confidence. I haven't been able to have a proper relationship since."
Jenny met her abuser at a vulnerable time - she had just moved and had left an unhealthy relationship. Michael told her he needed help after his own break-up, then flattered and charmed her.
"I'm a professional. I'm not dumb. I've run businesses ..."
But after a while, Jenny says Michael started throwing her around, telling her he didn't trust her, saying she'd had it easy because she grew up in a loving home, while he did not.
"He made me feel like I had a lot of privilege and he was not privileged and therefore it was my fault he was the way he was.
"He tried to attack me with a vacuum cleaner pipe and missed me."
Jenny says at the time, Michael was on methamphetamine, but it doesn't excuse his violent behaviour.
"He was made to acknowledge he had anger issues. There was always a period of remorse whenever he hit me or mistreated me. He'd come back with the big hush puppy eyes, saying, 'I'm sorry, I'll never do it again. I'm gonna fix it,'"
Jenny says it's only now, years after her attack, she can talk about it without crying. She's never considered herself a victim and her advice for other women is to get out the first time you're mishandled.
"The moment they throw you against the wall... don't tell them you're leaving, just plan to get out and do it quietly, really quietly."
Jenny encourages victims of family violence to ditch the rescuer mentality.
"You are not going to be able to help them."
Police part of the mix
Police in the Bay of Plenty say there's no single element driving our worst-in-the-nation family violence statistics, but drugs, alcohol and mental health play a significant role. Children are often involved, and officers sometimes return to the same household again and again until the victim agrees to accept help.
Inspector Clifford Paxton, Area Commander Western Bay of Plenty, says family violence remains a complex issue touching every part of society.
"Preventing and effectively responding to family violence is one of the greatest opportunities to improve the wellbeing and safety of our communities, and we all have a role to play."
Our staff are encouraged to take an eyes-wide-open approach to family harm, including recognising where incidents might point to a harmful pattern of behaviour, while prioritising the need to hold offenders to account for their behaviour."
Police are part of a wider government and community response to the issue, he says, working with other government and non-government, iwi and community organisations to address underlying causes of family harm. Paxton says increased reporting of domestic violence indicates improved trust between the public, police and other agencies.
"Violence is never okay and we want all victims of crime to be assured that if they come forward, their case will be taken seriously and treated sensitively."
Ultra-masculinity and the cult of pain
Dr Neville Robertson of Waikato University has studied family violence for four decades and says the issue is relatively new for New Zealand.
"There's a very strong consensus among scholars there was no domestic violence in pre-contact Māori society, and if there was, it was quickly resolved. It's because of community living, emphasis on whakapapa and the place of children in Māori society. The problem started to arise with missionaries and settlements and replacement of that way of life with an individualistic lifestyle."
Along with individualism, says Robertson, came rigid gender roles, which settlers and Māori adopted.
"A culture that encourages men to be tough, strong and dominant and expects women to be submissive, that's a recipe for domestic violence."
Robertson says there's a proven connection between homophobia and family violence because men in a homophobic society can feel under pressure to show manliness.
"One of the best ways to prove those masculine credentials is to keep women under their thumb."
Unfortunately, he says some men still think equality is a zero-sum game, "that if she has power they're not going to have power and they've got to get past that because what's good for women is good for men, too".
Like others, Robertson stresses there's no single solution to domestic violence. He says what has helped is the criminalisation of family violence, availability of protection orders, the domestic purposes benefit, and women's refuges.
"I don't think we should be discouraged that reporting rates are still high. The jury's still out whether that's a real increase or a greater willingness to report. Most people working in the field would say it's the latter."
*Names and identifying details of victims and abusers have been changed to protect survivors and their families.
Save someone else
If you suspect someone close to you is a victim of family violence, it's okay to be involved - you could save a life.
-Always call police if you think someone's in danger.
-Talk to family and whānau about how you can help.
-Talk to the person being harmed about having a safety plan.
-Listen and take what they say seriously.
-Give support, not advice.
Source: New Zealand Police
Reach out to others; don't isolate yourself.
Have legal documents such as birth certificates ready.
Get extra keys.
Have emergency contact numbers.
Call the Crisisline on 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843.
Source: Tauranga Women's Refuge
https://shielded.co.nz/ Does not show in browser history
Shakti Ethnic Women's Support Group
Shakti Women's Ethnic Support Group provides help for ethnic victims of domestic violence. Supervisor of the Tauranga office Margie Agaled says the organisation serves around 100 local family violence victims each year, many of whom face language, cultural and financial barriers.
"One of our biggest challenges in working with ethnic women is sometimes they don't know what they're going through is domestic violence. Even if there's severe physical abuse, they won't even think about leaving. They'll say, 'This is the only family I have in New Zealand. If I leave, where will I go?'"
Agaled says Shakti ensures women have basics like their own bank account.
"If you don't know how to pay the bills for your house, if the main person who's been managing finances is out of the picture, after separation it's more challenging because you have to start from zero. The effects of abuse are long-term."
Shakti co-ordinator Lisda Anggraeni says many ethnic women believe marriage is forever and they'd rather die by their husband's hand than dishonour him.
"I met a woman in hospital who was made to drink weed killer ... she said, 'Oh, it's because I was doing housework, I thought it was drink.' You can smell it. She tried to protect her husband."
Agaled says society must stop asking, 'Why did she not protect her children?'.
"Why did she have to protect her children? It's always about the victim. Why not ask questions about the perpetrator?"
Every woman who stands up against abuse sends a very strong message to her community, Agaled says.
"Culture is not an excuse for abuse. This is our tradition, our culture. No. We're talking about human rights here. We're talking about gender equality here. We consider our clients our champions."