The behaviour of men is both the problem and solution to domestic violence, says Hastings Women's Refuge manager Julie Hart.

The improved attitude by police is a huge advancement, Ms Hart said.

"When I started at refuge 22 years ago many had the attitude, 'it's just another domestic'," she said.

"Whenever you tried to advocate for a victim police would say, 'oh well you know there are two sides to every story', whereas in 2016 it is a whole different ball game.


"They are well-educated on the dynamics of domestic violence - they understand more fully the implications around how women are affected by the violence and what keeps them trapped in the relationship.

"They are far more aware of safety planning - the risk for women, particularly if they are ending the relationship or taking out protection orders.

"Every police officer that gets to understand how to do a good job with victims then passes that knowledge on to new officers coming through."

Hawke's Bay Inspector Dean Clifford said both police and communities had improved their response to domestic violence.

People were now more willing to talk about it and report it, Mr Clifford said.

"It's taken a generation and we're going to continue to improve."

The safety of families was a fundamental priority for police, Mr Clifford said, and with their prevention first policy police they worked a lot closer with other community agencies.

"We can't do it alone," he said.


Groups such as White Ribbon, for men who condemn violence against women, helped to change attitudes among perpetrators of domestic violence and those turning a blind eye.

"For anything to change around domestic violence we need to have good men who stand up and say, 'this isn't okay', and to challenge other men's behaviours," Ms Hart said.

For a greater male perspective the organisation's board was opened up to men, which was "the best decision we have made in a long, long time".

"It has been paying off in that it has opened up a whole new network for us, particularly when they are involved in male-dominated industries because it opens up a whole new network - a foot in the door we didn't have before."

Men also brought "a whole new dynamic" in decision making and their different life experiences enabled different approaches to challenges.

A year ago Vo2 director Shawn Hill, who was already an informal adviser, was invited to join the board and became chairman.

Until he gained an insider's view of domestic violence, he said he was unaware of its "severity".

"You see the adverts on TV and a few other bits and pieces but you don't actually realise the volume of it. It is much, much bigger than I thought it was."

Another eye-opener was the generosity of the people giving time, money, goods and goodwill.

"It is quite humbling."

He said more men needed to step forward and make a stand against domestic violence so other men would help break the stereotype of Women's Refuge being anti-male.

He said it over-delivered on what it was contracted to provide by the Ministry of Social Development "by several hundred per cent".

"That is not sustainable, although we have been sustaining it for many years, so curbing the problem at its source is certainly the right thing to be doing."

A big gap nationally was dealing with violent teenagers, he said.

With a wider family member of his experiencing a violent relationship as a teenager, he said parents were often seen to be wrong by default.

"So getting other people involved is also a good thing, to make them realise violence is not okay.

"If we can start the understanding of violence there then I think you are going a long way towards reducing the need on the refuge. It is not the norm and to carry on with it into your adult life should not be accepted."

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 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.