Abuse is defined as any action that intentionally harms or injures another person. Abuse is never OK: everyone has the right to feel safe and to live free from fear.

Key points

  1. Abuse can happen to anyone of any age or gender and from any walk of life.
  2. No matter what your situation, you deserve to live without pain and fear.
  3. Whether you’re the abused, the abuser, or a concerned friend or family member, it’s important to know that there is help available.
  4. Learning about the different types of abuse and what you can do to stop or prevent it can make a huge difference in your own or someone else’s life.


Other people may be able to find out that you have been to this or other sites that talk about family violence. If you are a victim of domestic violence or abuse, you can hide your visit.

What are the different types of abuse?

Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or psychological. It can also include financial and/or spiritual abuse. Abuse to anyone, at any age.

Physical abuse includes:

  • Hitting and punching.
  • Biting, pushing, choking or pulling your hair.
  • Making you drink or take drugs when you don't want to.
  • Using or threatening to use weapons.

Sexual abuse includes:

  • Forcing you to have sex or do other sexual acts you don't want to do.
  • Touching you in a way you don't want.
  • Frequently accusing you of sleeping with other people.
  • Forcing you to watch porn.

Psychological abuse includes:

  • Making you feel like everything you do is wrong.
  • Constantly criticising you or your friends.
  • Humiliating you in front of your friends.
  • Using unsafe driving to frighten you.
  • Damaging property/walls/possessions to scare you.
  • Making you isolated and alone.
  • Blaming everything on you.
  • Threatening to take the children away or hurt them.
  • Stalking, following, checking up on you.
  • Harming pets to punish you.
  • Making you feel scared of what might happen next.

Financial abuse includes:

  • Taking your money or property.
  • Running up debts in your name.
  • Misusing power of attorney.
  • Pressuring you into paying money. 

Spiritual abuse includes:

  • Attacks to your wairua or spirit.
  • Belittling your whakapapa, beliefs, traditions or culture
  • Not allowing you to participate in church/ temple or other religious activities.
  • Stopping you from expressing your spiritual or religious beliefs.  

Neglect includes:

  • Not providing food, clothing and warmth.
  • Leaving dependants alone or with someone who is unsafe.
  • Not providing comfort, attention and love.
  • Not providing medical treatment.

It is never OK for anyone to use violence to hurt or control you.

Domestic violence and abuse 

Domestic or family violence is one of New Zealand most serious social issues. Elder abuse is also a significant concern.

  • Between 33 to 39% of New Zealand women experience physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. (1)
  • Domestic violence is one of the leading causes of injury and death to women.
  • It also leads to short and long-term health problems such as mental illness, and problems with sexual and reproductive health. 
  • Children who live in a home where there is violence are significantly more at risk of being the victims of physical, sexual and psychological abuse and neglect than other children.

Domestic violence can be carried out by anyone with who you are in a domestic or close relationship. They don't have to be living with you. It could be a:

  • partner or ex-partner
  • carer
  • friend
  • flatmate or family member.

Domestic violence is never your fault. If you are a victim of family violence or in a relationship that makes you fearful about your own or anyone else's safety, seek help as soon as possible. You have the right to be safe.

Where to get help

  • If you are in immediate danger, call the Police on 111. They will respond straight away.
  • If you need advice or help in a crisis, call Women's Refuge on 0800 733 843 for free, any time.
  • For longer-term and ongoing protection from a violent person that can be enforced by law, you can apply to the Family Court for a Protection Order.
  • If children are involved you can also apply for an urgent Parenting Order (without notice).
  • The Police can issue a Police Safety Order if they think you're at risk from violence.


Family Violence It’s Not OK Information about family violence, what it is and where to get help.
National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuge Information on dealing with violence.
Rape Prevention Education RPE works to eliminate rape and sexual abuse through education and community work and provides support and information to survivors of sexual abuse.
Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga National Network of Stopping Violence Services This group aims to enable people to live free of all forms of violence, abuse and oppression.
White Ribbon White Ribbon Day, 25 November, is the international day when people wear a white ribbon to show that they do not condone violence towards women.

Learn more

Domestic violence Women's Refuge, NZ
Know your rights Women's Refuge, NZ
Domestic violence: what it is and how to get help Family Violence It’s Not OK, NZ
Help for family violence NZ Police


1. Fanslow, J & Elizabeth Robinson, Violence against Women in New Zealand: Prevalence and health consequences New Zealand Medical Journal 117 (2004)

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.