By now we should all know that violence is never okay, ever.

You only need to read or watch the news to understand we have a major problem in the country and not surprisingly New Zealand has one of the worst records of family violence in the OECD.

Family violence trauma affects a million people annually. If you are under 18 you fall under the youth umbrella and if you're over 65 you fall into the senior category with elder abuse and Age Concern.

But there is an at-risk group in the middle that we as a society tend to ignore - vulnerable adults.


What do we consider a vulnerable adult? The NZ Crimes Act 1961 defines a vulnerable adult as "an adult who is unable, by reason of detention, age, sickness, mental impairment or any other cause, to withdraw himself or herself from the care of another person".

This might be someone who has an intellectual or physical disability, has mental health needs, has a learning disability, is blind or visually impaired or is deaf or has a hearing impairment or has communication difficulties.

What does abuse look like in vulnerable adults? There are the common types of abuse, including physical and psychological, which are typical in all groups.

More specific to vulnerable adults are factors such as financial (misuse of bank cards, pressure to give or lend money, failing to repay money lent); neglect (withholding necessities, isolating, limiting access to care); exploitation (taking advantage of someone) and discrimination (unequal treatment because of age, race, gender and/or religion).

Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults Taranaki (SVAT) is a multi-agency response initiative for adults who are at risk or are suffering abuse.

The core members of the agency are CCS, AccessAbility, Quin Law, Taranaki Community Law, Taranaki Women's Refuge, Idea Services, Taranaki District Health Board, police and Taranaki Safe Families Trust. The initiative has three strategies.

Education, an advisory panel and public awareness.

One of the key education projects is Keeping Safe, Feeling Safe (KSFS) which helps educate people with intellectual and learning difficulties.


As a society we can all play our part to deal with this issue. At times people can feel uncomfortable about offering help.

It's okay to offer help. Just ask the question. Set an example. Don't discriminate. We want to promote healthier and safer communities and it all starts with our attitudes.