Urgent protection orders - a potentially life-saving tool - are on the rise in the Bay of Plenty. But is this a good thing? Cira Olivier reports.
A rise in the number of urgent protection orders being issued is being partly attributed to "hugely improved" police processes for dealing with family harm but some agencies have concerns domestic violence victims are not enforcing the orders.
Protection orders can be applied for to ensure one person can't contact the person protected by the order. They can be applied for without notice if there are fears for immediate safety or if a delay in getting a protection order might put you or your children in danger.
Recently released data from the Ministry of Justice shows the number of applications for urgent orders is increasing.
In the Waiariki region, which includes Rotorua, Taupō, Taumarunui and Tokoroa, there were 265 urgent applications last year. That was up 31 per cent on the 202 the year before and up 55 per cent on the 171 in 2015.
In Bay of Plenty, which includes Tauranga, Waihī, Whakatāne, Ōpōtiki and Thames, there were 335 urgent applications last year, up 17.5 per cent on the 285 the year before and 26 per cent on the 266 applications in 2015.
Rotorua Police area commander Inspector Phil Taikato said the increase in protection orders was in part down to "hugely improved" police processes for dealing with family harm.
"The various multi-agency family harm response initiatives, society's growing intolerance to this plague and improved legislation that makes it easier to keep our victims safe."
He said people were more willing to report family harm - whether it be bystanders, the victims themselves or friends and family of the victims - and that made it easier to get protection orders.
Taikato said urgent orders were put in place by police when there was an immediate risk of physical harm, a need to avoid serious harm or unjust hardship.
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"Battered woman's syndrome is real and sometimes we have to be creative, within the boundaries of the law, to keep these women and their children safe."
Waiariki Women's Refuge manager Paula Coker said the rise in urgent protection orders came down to an increasing level of violence.
She said despite the increase in the number of orders issued, some victims were not enforcing them and they could be the thing to save a life.
"They work as much as a person allows it to work. A woman can have a protection order but she's not necessarily going to use it."
She said there were a number of circumstantial reasons for a victim to not use it, some who did not know how to, and others not wanting their partner to get into trouble.
"I know of a woman who continuously gets assaulted quite badly ... even though she has a protection order, she refuses to call the police.
"Quite often women won't make a police statement ... I think it's around the repercussions of having police involvement but it can also be really daunting.
"These women love their partners, they don't love their behaviour."
The refuge pushes for protection orders because as the violence progresses, the options of how it will turn out for victims narrows.
"The next step is imminent harm, if not death."
Coker said they had seen a rise in the number of women they helped apply for protection orders. Putting protection plans in place was a priority, she said.
"It's about empowering woman to regain their power and control."
Tauranga Women's Refuge manager Hazel Hape agree the rise in orders issued was a reflection of the rising level of violence.
The refuge covered Tauranga District and Western Bay of Plenty and Hape said the abuse they saw included strangulation, being kicked, shoved, spat at, scratched and pushed.
"Isolated, locked up, dragged down the road by cars, hog-tied ... these are things we see every day."
She said the process of getting a protection order was not an easy one as women needed to make themselves vulnerable to a stranger and tell their story of violence and abuse.
"You're revealing the most intimate vulnerabilities of yourself."
She said protection orders were one tool to save lives. There was also a stop violence programme for abusers and a safety programme for children and adults.
According to Taikato, a lot of work needed to be done to encourage people to report family harm incidents more often.
It was estimated police were only called to 20 per cent of family harm incidents.
"More importantly, [the nation needs to] understand that it is not okay to beat, belittle or besiege those you are supposed to love and protect."
There was an array of legislation at police disposal to deal with harm in the home, including physical violence, psychological, and emotional harm.
"For example, a father taking a child's pet budgie and feeding it to the pet pit bull in front of the child as punishment can be more damaging than any physical violence," Taikato said.
"Rotorua is fortunate to have a solid collective whereby a number of other family harm prevention mechanisms are in place or about to be implemented."
In Rotorua, a multi-agency forum including health services and Oranga Tamariki met daily to go through all the family harm cases reported every 24 hours.
Each case was then assigned to the most appropriate agency and progress was reported back.
The cases which were red-flagged were elevated to a higher level of response.