"I don't call myself a victim, I call myself a survivor," says Gloria Eves.
Gloria survived a violent relationship and a protracted separation. Her ex fought her in court every step of the way and it was eight years before everything was finally resolved. For Gloria, the legal conflict was just the continuation of the abuse she had suffered during the relationship.
During her relationship, there was violence, but it was only occasional. At first, she doubted whether she was a family violence victim. Then when she realised that what was happening wasn't right, she stood up for herself. But that made things worse.
"There were certain incidents where I knew it wasn't okay but they were isolated incidences. They start putting you down and telling you you're stupid so you lose your sense of self-esteem. There's incidences with children that sometimes are not okay and then you start questioning that, but I found that as soon as I stood up and said 'this is not okay', that the violence escalated.
"I was probably one of those people that would have said 'if he hurt me I'd be out of there' but it doesn't happen like that. It's slow and insidious."
It was when Gloria's neighbours overheard what was happening next door and rang for help that she had support to make changes to her life. She says it's common for abusers to isolate their victims from friends and family so they don't know where to go for help, or do things such as taking over the finances so their partner has no access to money.
Eventually, Gloria broke free. And that experience, while painful, has taken her down a path where she's doing what she can to stop the spread of family violence.
Now Gloria is the co-ordinator at Taupō Violence Intervention Network, a agency which works locally to raise awareness of family violence. She acts as a link between all the agencies and social services working in family violence, providing resources and training, creating new resources, raising awareness and working to change community perception of family violence, as well as challenge social norms.
It used to be that family violence was 'just a domestic'. But now research shows it's part of a wider pattern of harm — and it's a cumulative harm that hurts everybody in the community, not just those directly affected. Children in abusive families often have difficulties at school and grow up to become abusers themselves. Women may take out a protection order but the onus still remains on them to keep themselves safe. Abusers begin new relationships and the pattern continues.
Gloria says when she was trying to escape family violence, it was difficult because 16 years ago the police and social services weren't as educated as they are now. But although agencies are better equipped nowadays, more work is still needed. Women and children are still dying.
The Taupō district has a shameful record of family violence. Police attend between 10 and 20 family violence incidents each week and we have our own roll of shame — Katrina Drummond, Moko Rangitoheriri, among others. In New Zealand, on average 13 women, 10 men and 9 children are killed by a member of their family every year. Gloria says part of her job is to encourage people to speak up about family violence, and Taupo Violence Intervention Network has been locally involved in the It's Not OK campaign.
The other thing it's been doing in a practical way is funding local change programmes Tane Ora and Wa Hine Ora which help people look at their behaviour and make lasting changes. Gloria says that came from a realisation that many abusers didn't like the way they were behaving, but had never learned a different way.
"People were coming in and asking for help but unless you're mandated [ordered], for example under police or Corrections, there was no help. We started Tane Ora as a response to that. Then the women started to recognise the change in their men and said 'we need to do this as well'. Quite often men and women are doing [the courses] at the same time to go to learn new skills and strategies."
"The thing about Tane Ora and Wa Hine Ora is that Maori are over represented [in family violence] and we need to work with Maori by Maori and for Maori but the programmes are open for everybody and it's still powerful for non-indigenous people, it's about making those links to where you belong andabout family. It's about the transformation of behaviours."
"Sometimes it's not about leaving the partner, but they just want the violence to stop and it's about new ways of working in relationships."
Gloria says perpetrators may blame the victim, try to justify their behaviour or deny it all together, and unless they are ready to look at themselves and make changes, nothing will be different.
"For men we have to acknowledge that if that's all you know, that's all you know. If you've been brought up in that environment you can't change it in a 10-week course, it needs to be a lifestyle change."
Most of Taupō Violence Intervention Network's funding comes from a contract with the Ministry of Social Development that's delivered by REAP but if TVIN want to fund other initiatives it has to find the money itself. The Tane Ora and Wa Hine Ora programmes are an example of something that's outside the government contract but making a real difference, and most of the money for it comes from REAP's biennial fundraiser Baches to Beautiful Homes, which in 2017 raised around $30,000. That's where it's important for the wider community to become less tolerant of family violence, Gloria says.
"We need more good men to step up and challenge men that are struggling with some of those issues and hold them to account and even take them under their wing, say 'hey let's take our children and do something together as a family' and show them the way."
Gloria says a new integrated response to family violence is a big shift to supporting victims better, by providing services that wrap safety around them and focus on holding perpetrators accountable."
"The most dangerous time is when you leave. Every month a woman in New Zealand is murdered by her partner."
Another way of bringing family violence out of the shadows is to expose it.
It spans all ethnic and socio-economic groups and is often a well-kept secret. Gloria says everybody can play a part in changing the attitudes and behaviours that allow family violence to continue.
"There's something we can do every day to make a difference. It's also about not tolerating sexist comments or if you hear someone putting someone down, it's all about saying that's not okay and having the courage to speak when they hear something that's inappropriate."
Friends, family and neighbours can also play valuable roles. It was the support of Gloria's neighbours that saved her.
"Neighbours need to act if they believe violence is happening next door," Gloria says. "If people hear things, if there's tensions next door, can they invite people over for a cup of tea, have the children for a period of time? Sometimes it's just asking 'are you okay?' because sometimes it's the small things that make a big difference when people are in a very hostile, walk on eggshells environment.
If you keep asking, they know that in a crisis actually that may be somewhere they can go.
"You have to ask the questions, and sometimes women have to be asked eight times 'are you okay?' before they'll speak.
"If you're concerned about someone, ask if they're okay and don't stop asking."
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:
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisisline operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisisline 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence: www.nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz
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New Zealand has the worst rate of family violence in the developed world. One in three women will be subjected to physical or sexual violence from a partner at some point in their lives.
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