A service helping women flee domestic violence in Hawke's Bay has a simple message for those trapped in abusive households during lockdown: get out.
"The police will not punish you for breaching lockdown, they will help you," Julie Hart, from Family VIP Services Hawke's Bay, said.
"If you are unsafe get out. Find help."
Family VIP Services offers a range of services including crisis housing in the Hawke's Bay.
Business manager Hart said it was important for women suffering abuse to leave and contact police on 111 as a first point of call, and not to let lockdown stop them.
She explained they found some surprising trends during the Covid lockdown last year and "learned a lot of lessons".
"Women that were trapped in a house suffering abuse were not calling us.
"They couldn't use the usual excuses for leaving the house like 'I am going to the [shop]' or out for a walk, because it was lockdown."
She said that meant many women remained trapped and felt they could not pick up the phone or they might be at risk of harm from their partners, who were also at home.
She said others thought they simply could not leave home as they would be breaching Covid restrictions, which she stressed was not the case.
She said as soon as lockdown ended last year they received a flood of requests and they had remained busy since.
She said they expected the same may happen again this time around with a spike in calls when the lockdown lifts, but hoped women would not wait if they were suffering abuse and would seek help immediately.
"We have been absolutely inundated since we came out of the level 4 lockdown in 2020 and it has just not stopped for us.
"[Our crisis housing] has been pretty much full 90 per cent of the time," she said.
"The year prior, at a guess, we probably had 55 per cent of the time we were at capacity."
The refuge operates two crisis homes, which can house up to 10 families at a time.
She said although they were busy, she encouraged women to continue to seek help as lots of services were available and they would be supported.
To support the vital work of Family VIP Services Hawke's Bay go to their website familyvip.org.nz and click donate.
Hawke's Bay contacts for DV support:
Family VIP Services Hawke's Bay: 0800 REFUGE (733 843)
Te Whare Whanau Purotu Maori Women's Refuge: 0800 REFUGE (733 843)