Horizons' Councillor Fiona Gordon has teamed up with Dr Ang Jury, Women's Refuge New Zealand chief executive, to ask all Councils nation-wide to host the Shielded Site – a safe, untraceable portal for victims of domestic violence to get help.
"We can all share in a sense of relief that the Covid-19 pandemic curve has steadily fallen," says Cr Gordon.
"What should rightly disturb us however is the domestic violence curve which has been steadily creeping upwards.
"So much so that domestic violence has been dubbed the 'second, silent epidemic' amid the lockdown."
Cr Gordon said the marked increase in the number of women making contact with Women's Refuge is a trend highly likely to continue, even as the lockdown provisions ease.
"Even more concerning is that support workers say that the stories worrying them most are the ones they aren't hearing about at all.
"For women experiencing family violence, living in the same bubble as their abuser can be extremely dangerous to try to reach out for help if the abuser becomes aware of what is happening.
"With social distancing measures in place, reaching out through traditional methods such as phone and email may not be a safe option.
"This is why the Women's Refuge Shielded Site is so vital," says Cr Fiona Gordon.
"The web-based portal allows women to secretly access essential information and advice without fear that their abusers, who may well be monitoring their victim's browser history, will know they have been reaching out.
"Now with a new web-chat function, women can immediately be in touch with specialists in family violence to receive advice and assistance in real time - all while maintaining absolute confidentiality and leaving no digital footprint."
Dr Jury and Cr Gordon have jointly written to Local Government New Zealand asking all 78 councils nation-wide to add the Shielded Site to their websites.
Their letter has garnered wide support from Councillors at both Horizons Regional Council and Palmerston North City Council.
"Hosting the Shielded Site is such a simple yet effective measure," says Cr Gordon. "It can make reaching out for help easier and safer.
"Obviously, the more websites that choose to host it, the better."
HRC last week actioned Cr Gordon's request to host the Shielded Site on the Horizons' website.
This prompted inquiry from City Councillor Rachel Bowen who ensured Palmerston North City Council quickly followed suit.
"We need as many avenues as possible for people to seek help safely."
Should your business wish to host the Shielded Site visit www.shielded.co.nz