Plunket frontline staff are particularly aware of the challenges that are faced by new immigrants to New Zealand. Having a baby can be a very challenging time but can be even more so if you are isolated by cultural barriers, language or a lack of community connection.
Rachel* is one of our many Plunket nurses who works with women who have recently migrated to New Zealand.
Rachel first began seeing Hana’s family at their 6 week Well Child visit. They initially looked happy and thriving and enjoying their new life living in New Zeland. It wasn’t until the baby’s 15 month check-up that Rachel noticed something wasn’t quite right.
She asked Hana, ‘How do you feel, is someone making you feel unsafe?’
She burst into tears. Her husband was making her do things she found humiliating.
Rachel sat down with Hana and showed her the It’s not OK website, where it lists examples of different types of abuse. Rachel told me that as Hana read down the list she began to sob ‘Rachel, this is exactly what he has been doing to me.’
‘She didn’t realise that what she was going through was family violence. She thought that violence was just physical. She was so upset.’
Plunket nurses are specially trained to ask and respond to sensitive questions about family violence. If family violence is disclosed, the nurse will make sure that the parent has a safety plan in place for themselves and their children. Making this plan is exactly what Rachel and Hana did.
They sat together and talked about steps for Hana to take if anything happened to threaten her and her baby.
Part of that plan was for Hana to call 111 if she was feeling their safety was at risk. Hana finished the visit confident in her safety plan and knowing who she could to turn to for help if things got bad. They had no idea just how soon they would need to put that safety plan in to action.
Normally this would not be something a Plunket nurse would expect to find herself doing. 'It was really scary, I’d never phoned 111 myself. Then she sent me the photo. In that photo I could see that she was crying, I could see the bruising, the swelling. So I called the police.'
After Rachel called the Police Hana’s abuser was in custody later that afternoon – and Hana could start to recover and begin the long journey to building a safer life for her children.
There is great support in the community for abused women and their children. But so often the key to taking that first step is a courageous Plunket nurse like Rachel supporting a mother to identify the problem. For parents like Hana, having someone that they can trust to open-up to about such a sensitive topic can be a life saver. Family violence has long reaching impacts, especially on children. It puts them at risk for adverse impacts on brain development and problems with aggression, but it doesn’t mean that they will grow up to be violent adults.
Outcomes can be positive if they have nurturing relationships with supportive caregivers. Nurses like Rachel go above and beyond to help parents and children through dangerous situations.
Working towards preventing and reducing violence in our community is key to improving the lives of children and families in New Zealand. Your donation can make a real difference through providing specialist training and resources for nurses like Rachel and mums like Hana.
*Names in this story have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.