Family violence services will not be limited to those in need during the lockdown - and advocates are imploring people and employers to look out for those who might be at risk.

The national lockdown starts at 11.59pm tonight and will last at least four weeks.

During that time New Zealanders cannot leave their home addresses unless it's absolutely essential - for example buying food, seeking medical treatment or exercising.

According to Shine and Women's Refuge, an unintended consequence for people living in abusive homes is that they may have to spend more time with their abuser - and thus be at a heightened risk of further abuse.


The agencies said additional worries or conflict in the wake of the pandemic about jobs, finances, unwell or elderly family members, and childcare, may also heighten risk of further or more severe abuse in these situations.

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Police said yesterday they expected the level of domestic violence to increase during the enforced lockdown with more people at home and extra pressure on couples and families.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said police would increase their response to family harm and staff would also do more around prevention.

"And also there are other agencies that we really want to keep as essential services so that they can support people who were in the middle of that," he said.

Shine, Women's Refuge and other services that deal with victims of family harm and sexual violence have been categorised as essential services and will continue to operate at full capacity during the lockdown.

The only change would be around face-to-face contact.

For example, Shine advocates would not be able to visit abused women at home to help them leave or formulate escape plans.


But, they were still available by phone to do that crucial work.

"It's really important for people to know that the family violence and sexual violence services are still being considered essential," said Shine spokeswoman Holly Carrington.

"Our services continue to operate - just some services we usually offer in person will be offered by phone instead.

"Our helplines will still operate and our refuge services are critical for people who need to get out - it's important for people to know that."

Carrington said employers and the community had a role to play in helping ensure victims of family harm were as safe as possible during the lockdown.

"This is one for everyone out there - we need to be looking after each other right now," she said.


"But especially if you are aware of someone who's in a situation where they are being controlled, intimidated or hurt by a partner of family member.

"We need to think creatively about how we can check on that person's safety."

Carrington said it was likely abusive partners would be listening in on phone calls and monitoring text messages or emails during the lockdown.

"Take that into account at all times," she said.

"Give people something to say if they are unsafe to talk - have a code word they can use if someone comes in the room and they can't talk any longer.

"We all really need to be thinking about how we can look out for each other and support each other."

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Carrington said employers should also think creatively around staff they had concerns about.

For example those who could should offer a place away from home for their staff to work if they were living in a dangerous home.

Advice for employers was available online.

She acknowledged that many employers would not be considered an essential service and simply could not provide a safe place away from home for their workers.

But she urged them to do everything they could to protect people.


At her end, it was "business as usual" and anyone who needed help was encouraged to call and chat to advocates.

"It is so important to keep these messages going out there, that our services are continuing," Carrington said.


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