In recent months, hundreds of people have come together at two events to remember members of the community who died as a result of violence and to call for its end. Reporter Abe Leach spoke to those who deal with family violence on a regular basis about the situation and what's being done to address the issue.
"We really need to step up as a community."
That's the word from Whanganui Area Commander Inspector Nigel Allan, who says local police are actively working on their capacity to prevent family violence, while also maintaining their role in attending incidents that have occurred.
Over the past two years, Whanganui police have increased their focus on the issue in the form of the Safer Whānau programme.
"We have built the team from two staff to the 13 that we have now," Allan said.
"Of those positions, we've developed a new position at senior sergeant level, we've got two sergeants, two detectives, four constables."
Two other roles in the group are linked to local iwi, who Whanganui police are also working with as part of the project.
"The Safer Whānau group is much less about incident attendance which is still dealt with at the front line; it's actually giving us the capacity to work with whānau experiencing family harm.
"It's about engagement and opening the door, and then referring on to the agencies we have in our community so we can get the best support for those families."
Allan said Safer Whānau was part of a larger community response to family harm which was in the works.
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Allan said the prevalence of family violence wasn't unique to Whanganui.
"We shouldn't say there's not a problem there because clearly we've had these incidents happen, and to me that emphasises the need to work together as a community.
"I don't believe it makes our community more at risk or any worse than any others, it's just we are dealing with these incidents here and we really need to step up as a community."
Allan said there had been an increase in the number of family harm incidents in Whanganui year-on-year, but it was not a simple measure to judge.
"Nationally, we understand about a quarter of family harm episodes that occur get reported to police, and that's a pretty well-understood statistic.
"Part of the problem is that if we just look at reporting, the better we are able to support and better connected we are, we would actually expect to see an increase in reporting because people have the confidence and the channels.
"It's difficult to remove the fact that the number of reported incidents is going up, but it doesn't necessarily reflect that we've got more family harm occurring."
The increase in reporting is also being felt by agencies throughout Whanganui, such as Rise: Stopping Violence Services which offers support to people and families affected by violence.
"A lot of agencies around town are trying to do the best we can but the numbers just keep going up," manager Shaina Petersen said.
Petersen has been involved with the agency for about a year and helps those going through the Family Court or with pre-sentence conditions take part in a non-violence programme.
Rise is contracted through Corrections and receives funding from the Ministry of Social Development to facilitate self-referrals as well.
As well as Whanganui, Rise serves areas between Hawera and Marton.
It aims to address violence early by working with children as young as 11 through to adults.
Petersen said referrals often came through schools where behaviour might be picked up, but the criteria to go to the agency was the presence of violence at home.
"People often think it is only physical but there are a whole lot of other levels to violence," Petersen said.
"There's psychological, intimidation, financial, but physical is often the extreme end."
From July 2018 to June 2019, the agency dealt with 725 referrals, up 33 per cent on the previous year when there were 543 referrals.
In the 2018-2019, period there were more referrals in Whanganui alone compared to the total number of referrals across the agency's entire service territory the previous year.
Petersen said the level of collaboration between agencies working to prevent family violence in Whanganui was good, but "there can always be improvements" when it came to funding.
Understanding an early warning sign was an important factor to address family violence, Petersen said.
"Homicide is the most extreme end and it's very rarely that it would go to that extreme without little warning signs.
"It is things like isolation, if you notice someone is in a relationship and they're being isolated from their whānau or friend group.
"Most people have the misconception that violence is about anger management, but violence is about power and control."
Safer Whanganui is a Whanganui District Council organisation that acts as a facilitator between agencies working to stop violence in Whanganui.
The organisation aims to enhance community initiatives around family harm, such as recently supporting White Ribbon Whanganui representatives who spoke and gave out branded gear, including White Ribbon builders' pencils, at a trade industry breakfast.
"This time we've gone with the trades community and it's the first time we've done something like that," Safer Whanganui manager Lauren Tamehana said.
"You do have to be a little bit gimmicky. Builders always use a pencil and as they keep using their pencil the message is there; every time they put it down on a work site, someone is going to see that message.
"Reinforcement of the message is what we want across our community."
Tamehana said there were committed people doing good work around family harm, but it took a collective effort such as this month's White Ribbon march to address the issue.
The march is due to take place as part of White Ribbon Day on Friday, November 22.
It will start at midday and those taking part are advised to assemble at the St Hill St and Taupo Quay intersection.
Tamehana said an important way to address family harm was for everyone to make a pledge to "stand up, speak out and say no to violence" at the march.
"That's a responsibility that every single one of us in our community has. The responsibility for that doesn't sit with any one organisation or group, it sits with every single person in our town."
WHERE TO GET HELP
If you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
Women's Refuge Whanganui, phone 344 2204 or 0800 733 843
Rise: Stopping Violence Services, phone 347 7992
Whanganui Safe & Free, phone 343 3416
Family Works, phone 345 6681
Relationships Aotearoa, phone 348 0027