Family violence

Also known as domestic violence

Family violence is hurting a family member or someone you’re in a close personal relationship with. Family violence is not just hurting someone physically. It can also be hurting someone emotionally, psychologically, financially and/or sexually.

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Key points about family violence

  1. Family violence includes child abuse, partner abuse and elder abuse.
  2. Anyone can be affected by family violence, regardless of their age, gender, sexual identity, cultural background, ability, religion, wealth, status or location. 
  3. To reduce and prevent family violence, we all need to take ownership of the part we play in promoting healthy attitudes and beliefs.
  4. If you are feeling trapped, controlled, or being physically or emotionally hurt, support, information and advocacy is available.
  5. If you know or suspect someone is being intimidated, controlled or hurt, find out what you can do to help. It's OK to get involved – you could save a life.
  6. If you have been violent or abusive towards your partner or family members and want to make a change, support is available.

What is family violence?

Family violence (previously referred to as domestic violence) is hurting a family member or someone you're in a close personal relationship with. 

Family violence can happen in many kinds of relationships, including between:

  • husbands and wives
  • civil union partners
  • de facto (living together) partners
  • people who are biological parents of the same person
  • people related by blood
  • people related through marriage, civil union, de facto relationships or adoption
  • members of the same family/whānau or other culturally recognised family group
  • flatmates or other people who live in the same house or flat
  • people in a close personal relationship who don’t live together
  • people in care/carer relationships, if it's also a close personal relationship.

Family violence can be hurting someone physically. It can also be hurting someone emotionally, psychologically, financially and/or sexually.

Examples of the different types of family violence

Physical abuse:

  • 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.

Psychological abuse:

  • Making you feel like everything you do is wrong.
  • Tormenting you emotionally.
  • 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.
  • Stopping you from, or forcing you to, practice a faith or religion.
  • Making you feel scared of what might happen next.

Sexual abuse:

  • 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.

Financial abuse:

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

Neglect:

  • 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.

Source: Family Violence – It’s not OK 

Family violence is a crime in New Zealand. Find out more about the Family Violence Act and the Family Violence (Amendment) Act

How can I help prevent family violence?

Family violence affects everyone. It happens in homes, neighbourhoods and communities.

Family violence is common because of widely held beliefs and attitudes that make it seem okay. These include the view that it’s alright to use violence against women, and violence and other controlling behaviours within intimate partner and family relationships.

To reduce and prevent family violence, we all need to take ownership of the part we play in promoting healthy attitudes and beliefs. We can do this by challenging unhealthy beliefs and attitudes, safely and respectfully, when we come across them in everyday conversations – whether those conversations are in person, by text or on social media.

Learn more about how you can help challenge attitudes and prevent family abuse by being a Conversation Champion 

Communities have a significant role to play in preventing violence and making it not OK. Learn more about Promoting change in your community  Family Violence – It’s not OK

How healthy is my relationship?

Whether you are in a long-term or casual relationship, you deserve to be treated well. You also need to make sure you’re treating your partner respectfully. Take the quiz to see how healthy your relationship is. Positive relationship quiz

What can I do if I am affected by family violence?

Family violence is not okay. You have the right to be safe. Report any family violence to the Police. 

  • Call the Police on 111 if you think you or someone else is in danger. If it’s not safe to speak, push 55 on a mobile (any number on a landline) to be put through to Police.
  • If it's not an immediate crisis but you want support or someone to talk to about your concerns, phone the It’s not OK information line on 0800 456 450.
  • If you are at risk of family violence, you can apply to get a Protection Order from the court.3 Learn about Applying for a Protection Order

The Family Violence Information Line (0800 456 450) provides self-help information and connects people to services where appropriate. It is available 7 days a week, from 9am to 11pm, with an after-hours message redirecting callers in the case of an emergency.

You can also search under 'Family Violence' in our Services Directory for support services in your area or contact the following organisations for help:

Where can I get free legal help?

What can I do to help someone affected by family violence?

It’s hard to know what to do when you know – or suspect – that a friend or family member is living with violence. There are many actions that help. Sometimes just one action or comment can make the difference.

If you know or suspect someone is being intimidated, controlled or hurt, find out what you can do to help. It's OK to get involved – you could save a life. Keep in mind: 

  • Adults affected by family violence feel a lot of shame whether they are being violent or being hurt. They need to make changes in their own time when they are ready.
  • Children need to be protected from violence happening in their homes – they need adults around them to keep them safe.

If you want to help someone who you suspect is violent, challenge the behaviour, not the person. Say things like:

  • Can I help?
  • Do you need to talk?
  • It's not OK your kids are scared of you.

The sooner you reach out to someone who is being violent the sooner they can get help to change.

How can I get help to stop using violence?

If your family is scared of you, or if people tell you that your behaviour is frightening, you might need to consider making changes to the way you behave.

Admitting you need help and changing your behaviour takes courage, effort and determination but brings lifelong rewards. What next? 

There are services all over New Zealand that offer programmes and support for you to learn new ways of behaving.

The Family Violence Information Line (0800 456 450) provides self-help information and connects people to services where appropriate. It is available seven days a week, from 9am to 11pm, with an after-hours message redirecting callers in the case of an emergency.

Other people who can help:

References

  1. Campaign for action on family violence Ministry for Social Development, NZ 
  2. I want change Are you ok? NZ
  3. Family violence Ministry of Justice, NZ
  4. Conversation Champions Shine, NZ
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Juanita Harrison, Acting Manager (Central) & Psychologist Team Leader, Clinical Services Northern, Oranga Tamariki Ministry for Children Last reviewed: 14 Sep 2020