Police have charged almost five people a day with strangling or suffocating their partners since a new family violence law came into force criminalising such acts in December.

And a woman who survived a horror strangling incident, and years of other abuse at the hands of her partner, has spoken out about her ordeal to help people understand how serious the problem really is.

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.

In a bid to curb family violence, new legislation was introduced to make strangulation and suffocation a criminal offence.

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Previously there was no separate offence for strangulation as it was treated as assault.

The change was part of the Family Violence Amendment Act, replacing the Domestic Violence Act.

The first person to be charged under the new law - the day it came into force on December 3 - was a South Auckland man.

Since then 416 people in total have been charged, around 33 per week and almost five each day.

A woman who was suffocated by her partner almost daily and strangled in a terrifying assault where she blacked out and thought she was dying has shared her story to highlight the atrocious statistics.

"He strangled me until I was unconscious," Jessica told the Herald.

"It was a terrifying moment… he smothered me almost daily, covering my mouth and pushing… he would say 'if you move I'm going to break your neck' - that was way more frightening than being hit.

"I was aware that I needed to get out of it but it was like I had paralysis, I was so frightened of him and it just became normal to a point where I was like 'did that happen?'."

Jessica, not her real name, met her abusive partner soon after she broke up with her first boyfriend.

She was vulnerable, reeling from her first heartbreak and the new man in her life seemed too good to be true.

He wanted to spend every hour with her, bought her flowers, was protective.

"I seemed like the perfect guy, he did all the things you want a guy to do… but it turned out to be very controlling, he was very manipulative."

"He would do things like come to my house at night and throw stones at my window and at the time I thought it was cute but I now realise he was stalking and obsessive."

The relationship moved fast and Jessica got swept up by her new partner.

"There was a lot of emotional abuse a few months in, days in probably - but I couldn't recognise it," she said.

"The physical abuse started three years in, by then we were super entrenched in each other's lives, we were living together.

"He started smothering me, he'd push his thumbs into my eyes, threaten me with knives.

"He would head butt me and once he did it and I thought my skull had broken open, I'd never heard a sound like that.

"He refused to take me to hospital… he started pacing, and then he started putting down plastic on the floor and I could tell he was thinking what to do with me if it got really bad, if I didn't make it.

"That was the point I was like 'Jesus, I've got to get out of this'."

The worst attack happened one night.

He hit her in the face and she ran and locked herself in another room.

He started to break the door in, she could see the wood splintering and he was demanding that she come out - that it would be much worse for her if she didn't.

"He convinced me to come out of the room, then he strangled me," she said.

"I started to see blackness… I woke up slumped on the floor."

Jessica had become isolated from her family and friends during her relationship and did not know where to turn.

Her partner convinced her she was mentally ill and would minimise his actions, constantly gaslighting her - manipulating her into doubting her own mind.

He threatened to kill her regularly, even driving her out into a wooded area showing her the places he would bury her.

Finally, she had enough.

She called national domestic abuse charity Shine and spoke to an advocate.

She was worried she would be judged, told what to do, but she had no one else to turn to.

She packed her bags and left him.

But, like many women, was manipulated and bullied into returning to the relationship.

"I was just so in it that I couldn't separate myself… I wasn't emotionally ready… he worked his way back into my life," she explained.

"I wanted to believe in the best side of him because he wasn't always terrible, at times he was so lovely in so many ways, but he was also a complete tyrant - it was hard to believe someone could be two people like that.

"I wanted to give him every opportunity to redeem himself but he ended up doing even more crazy s***."

It took her a while until she was ready to break free completely, and Shine then helped her obtain a protection order to keep her away from her abuser - and safe.

She did not go to police about the abuse because she felt he would only get "a slap on the wrist" and did not want to go through the court process for that.

She was also "petrified" he would kill her or harm her family.

"Leaving is the most dangerous part of it, it's not as simple as people think and I didn't understand that until I left him, I was petrified... I was worried about repercussions," Jessica explained.

Experts say, and statistics show that the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is shortly after they leave.

Most murders happen at this time.

And, victims are often unable to leave due to isolation, lack of funds and housing and fear.

"Shine were like a lifeline for me, I felt awkward and ashamed for even calling them, but they were great.

"They knew how to start the conversation for me because I couldn't even do that.

"They didn't judge, they didn't tell me what to do, they just gave me a strategy, a safety plan.

"I don't think I'd be alive if I didn't speak to Shine."

Jessica now wants to train to be a volunteer advocate and work to help other women in dangerous relationships.

She spoke out hoping to educate people more on domestic violence and why women don't "just leave" abusive relationships.

"It would be great if people could educate themselves about that and their reaction to it because comments like 'why don't you just leave' or 'I'm sure he didn't mean it' or 'he's not that sort of guy' can be the most damaging and silencing thing.

"People mean well, but there needs to be more patience, more compassion instead of telling people what to do and making assumptions.

"Listen to the woman and just believe her - don't minimise what she is saying.

"When I called Shine I was expecting a lecture but it was really refreshing, there was no judgement just compassion and most importantly they told me 'what he's doing is not okay'.

"It's important for victims to hear that, that it's not your fault."

Shine' annual fundraiser to focus on advocates

Shine's annual Light it Orange fundraiser starts on Sunday and runs until March 9.

This year, donations to the campaign will help fund specialist advocates who are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide urgent support to adult and child victims of domestic violence.

Following urgent referrals from police and hospitals, the advocates meet with clients in their own homes, at the hospital, local police stations, or other safe venues to help them understand their level of risk.

They then create a safety plan, which may include applying for a protection order, going into a refuge, or whatever will work best in that person's circumstances to keep him or her safe.

"Extra funding would allow us to employ more advocates, train more volunteers and upgrade our refuges," said Shine general manager Jane Drumm.

Light it Orange runs for one week, during which individuals and organisations wear orange, decorate offices in orange, and participate in activities such as Auckland's Round the Bays fun run to raise funds.

Donations can be made direct to Shine online or through individuals, schools or workplaces fundraising for Light it Orange.

"Light it Orange is a way for Kiwis come together to raise funds and call for a cultural shift in New Zealand," said Drumm.

"Please donate to Light it Orange to help victims – adults and children - get safe and stay safe."

CAN YOU HELP

To donate to Shine's Light it Orange campaign or sign up and create your own fundraising event to help the cause visit http://www.lightitorange.co.nz or click here.

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.
Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843.
• 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.