What you need to know

  • If you or your children are in immediate danger, call 111 and ask for the police. Call the Shine helpline on 0508 744 633 or Women’s Refuge on 0800 733 843 if you’re being physically or emotionally abused by a partner or family member.
  • Family violence (also known as domestic violence) is not okay, ever. You have the right to feel safe in your relationships. There is always someone you can reach out to for support. 
  • Domestic violence can include physical, psychological, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse.
  • Family violence happens in all parts of society, regardless of income, education, age, religion or culture.
  • Women are more likely than men to be victims of family violence, and children are often caught up in family violence.
  • If you’re in an abusive relationship, it's never your fault. 

What is family violence?

If you or your children are in immediate danger, call 111 and ask for the police. Call the Shine helpline on 0508 744 633 or Women’s Refuge on 0800 733 843 if you’re being physically or emotionally abused by a partner or family member.

In New Zealand law, family violence or family harm is known as domestic violence. It’s violence carried out by anyone you live with or have a close relationship with – it could be a partner or ex-partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, carer, parent, older child, sibling or other family member. They don’t have to be living with you.

Violence in families:

  • is not always physical or sexual
  • may be psychological, emotional, verbal, coercion, control or financial
  • usually increases in frequency and gets more severe unless the abusive person takes responsibility and changes their behaviour
  • may stop you being the parent you want to be.

If you’re in an abusive relationship, this violence is never your fault. The person who is violent is responsible for it and the way it affects your family.

Domestic violence is a crime, and it has many serious effects on families and wh?nau.

  • Some people are hurt or even die from physical injuries, while others suffer from depression.
  • Violence can cause people to feel suicidal, or to have problems with alcohol and other drugs. It can affect your eating and sleeping, and your general health.
  • People in violent homes often feel anxious, confused and alone.

Family violence isn’t a private matter—it’s a crime. We all have a role to pay in preventing and effectively responding to family violence.

Sometimes having children can be a trigger for abuse to start, or for women in a violent relationship, it can make the abuse worse. This is because abusive men often feel jealous during the pregnancy and once the baby arrives.

Are you suffering from family violence or abuse?

  • Does anyone threaten to hurt you, the children, themselves, or your pets?
  • Does anyone threaten to take the children away or report you?
  • Do they stop you seeing your family and friends?
  • Do they stop you having any money or working outside the home?
  • Do they control what you do or where you go?
  • Do they repeatedly email or call, text, or check who you've been contacting?
  • Do they get jealous or angry easily?
  • Do they do things that scare you, like displaying weapons or driving fast?
  • Do they call you names, constantly criticise or put you down?
  • Do they hit, choke, push, slap, burn, kick you, hurt you in any way, or throw things?
  • Do they force you to have sex or do degrading things?

Domestic violence usually happens more often and gets worse unless the abusive person takes responsibility and changes their behaviour.

Types of family violence

It might be a single act of violence, or lots of separate violent acts that form a pattern of abuse.

Domestic violence is often thought of as physical violence or abuse – which includes any physical behaviour like pushing, shoving, hitting, biting, choking, slapping or punching – but it’s more than that.

Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse

This is when words are used to hurt, intimidate, harass, threaten, insult, and humiliate someone. It could be:

  • putting someone down in private, or in front of others
  • saying or doing things to make someone feel less confident
  • using words to threaten or intimidate someone
  • swearing, yelling or calling someone names
  • making rules around who you can see or what you can do.

Psychological or emotional abuse is the most common form of family violence.

Financial or economic abuse

This includes:

  • controlling or restricting someone’s access to money
  • stealing someone’s money and belongings
  • giving you an ‘allowance’ that doesn’t cover the bills, while someone else spends the money however they like
  • checking all your receipts and the mileage on your car
  • someone refusing to pay child support
  • using your name for debit and credit cards so one person carries all the family debt
  • forcing someone not to work
  • not letting you have your name on property or other assets.

Harassment, stalking and threats of harm

This includes behaviour like:

  • texting or ringing all the time
  • tracking phone calls or checking your phone to see who you’ve been speaking to or texting, and what you’ve been searching on the internet
  • following someone to see where they’re going or who they’re meeting
  • threatening to hurt someone or the people close to them.

Sexual violence or abuse

This is any kind of unwanted sexual behaviour. Between one in three and one in five New Zealand women – and one in 10 men – report having experienced sexual abuse.

It can happen in an intimate relationship (like a marriage), too. Even if it’s your husband, you should be able to say no to sex without repercussions. This kind of abuse includes:

  • unwanted sexual contact
  • intimidation or threats to make someone engage in unwanted sexual activities
  • rape.

There are many other types of abuse, including

  • social abuse (not allowing someone to see and/or speak with their friends or family)
  • spiritual abuse (not allowing someone to practise their religion, beliefs, traditions or culture)
  • property abuse (selling, damaging or destroying someone’s personal possessions)
  • animal abuse (using cruelty or abuse against family pets to intimidate someone).

All types of domestic abuse involve one person controlling another.

Witnessing family violence has the same negative effects on children as physical violence against them.

Who’s affected by family violence

Family violence happens in all parts of society, regardless of income, education, age, religion or culture. 

Women are more likely than men to be victims of family violence, they’re more likely to live in fear of a partner or ex-partner, and they’re more likely to be injured because of family violence.

Children are also often caught up in family violence – both as victims themselves, and as witnesses. Seeing family violence causes emotional trauma and has the same negative effects on children as physical violence against them. Even when a child doesn’t see the family violence, but lives in a home where there is family violence, it can still have a negative impact on them.

Sometimes pregnancy can be a trigger for abuse to start, or for women in a violent relationship, it can make the abuse worse. This is because abusive men often feel jealous during the pregnancy and left out after the baby is born.

Need free support or advice?

Call PlunketLine 24/7 on 0800 933 922