Atrocious family violence statistics and high volumes of meth use in the Bay of Plenty have both exposed a horrific truth about what is happening to women behind closed doors. Cira Olivier reports.
Some women are being forced to take methamphetamine as part of domestic abuse, according to a women's refuge worker.
Waiariki Women's Refuge manager Paula Coker said the drug was becoming just another tool in family violence situations.
"It's just another ploy to control."
Coker had met one Rotorua woman who became addicted to the drug after being forced to take it by her abusive partner.
After reporting her addiction to her boss, she lost her job.
While that woman was no longer with her abuser and had found another job, Coker said the damage had been done.
The refuge had seen a rise in the number of women who had been forced to use meth by their abusers.
Coker said women did not even need to be told to do it, "it is forced down them".
She said this included being injected against their will, having their drinks spiked or being told to take it.
"And if that's the environment you've been in for the last five, 10 years, you're going to do as you're told.
"You can say no ... and then suffer a beating."
Being addicted to the substance made the victims more vulnerable and dependent, she said.
The high the drug brought made coming back down to the reality of domestic violence worse, she said.
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"I'm just going to do [meth] because he's going to beat me anyway," is the dialogue she heard from victims.
She believed the women realised they could be killed.
"If I don't do it he's going to kill me. I'm damned if I do, I'm damned if I don't," they would tell her.
As well as a tool for the abuser, the addiction was strengthened by the drugs' ability to numb the physical pain during a beating, as well as the trauma.
Coker said teaching women boundaries and educating them on what love looks and feels like was part of the work the refuge did, but women often protected their abusers.
"A woman can be beaten to a pulp and have her children sitting there watching, and have said to me, 'well, he's a good dad'."
Coker said taking meth out of the picture would not solve the problem of family violence as it was enrooted into behaviours and needed to be worked on in a much deeper level.
She said anyone forced to take the illicit drug should contact drug addiction services.
Former women's refuge worker Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said no one should be forced to take any illegal substance.
"If the household has children that reason alone warrants an urgent call to the police or wider whānau for immediate support," Raukawa-Tait said.
"Don't be a doormat to a dickhead."
Family Works area manager Lynne Fairs said the use of methamphetamine among women could be used to numb a violent situation.
Bay of Plenty youth, community and family harm district manager, Inspector Phil Gillbanks said while police did not have any real evidence to confirm some women were being forced to take methamphetamine, it was "quite possible" it was happening.
"What we know is that couples with drug and alcohol addictions have real problems navigating away from the violent relationships, this is particularly so for victims," he said.
He said a victim locked in the cycle of violence may use drugs and alcohol as a tool to cope with their environment.
"This use of, and a consistent cycle of violence, whether it be physical, sexual, psychological or emotional, will often lead to addiction and subsequent mental health issues."
This vicious cycle came with complications as addicts and users - both victims and perpetrators - did not disclose the truth about their substance use, particularly methamphetamine, he said.
"They are often too scared because gangs are often involved, they do not want to threaten their own supply or risk being outcast through being seen as a nark," Gillbanks said.
They also feared external services being involved which could mean other controls were put in place which would prevent them from being able to pay for their addiction.
"The often forgotten victims in all of this are the beautiful children that are born into it, and more often than not fall into the same cycle of chaos as they grow."
The Bay of Plenty has some of the highest rates of methamphetamine and cocaine use in New Zealand, according to a study of the region's wastewater released in October.
The study revealed the average daily drug use per 1000 people in each policing district between May and July. It found about 900mg of methamphetamine was used each day per 1000 people in the Bay of Plenty
There were 13,219 family investigations carried out in the region in 2018 - nearly 1000 more than the previous year and about 480 more than in 2016.
Of these investigations, 2213 cases went to court, which is the highest number of family harm prosecutions of any region in the country and an average of six a day.
Drug Help NZ defines methamphetamine as a strong and addictive stimulant which could become a need, not a want.
It stated people usually experienced enhanced feelings of energy, mood, and libido which were followed by a comedown.
Help & advice
- sexual harm helpline
- For violent men who want to make a change: 07 3480904