By Penny Lewis, Journalist
Life may have slowed down in New Zealand, but domestic violence has not. With families confined to their homes under Level 4 restrictions (and now Level 3) in the battle against COVID-19, the fallout from the pandemic is making domestic violence worse.
Tanya, manager of one of Shine’s refuges, says Police have reported an escalation in local family harm incidents, with indications that incidents have tripled in numbers on the North Shore compared with last year.
During Level 4 lockdown, it was more difficult for women living with family violence to find time away from their abuser to ask for help. Women who have managed to ask for help through Police seem to be more open to asking for help.
“It’s like they’re trapped. They’re so much more limited with options now because of COVID. Most of the callouts coming now are from families who are already known to the police and to us,” Tanya says.
Donations are crucial for Shine to continue to help these women. Tanya and her team have reprioritised offers of support to tackle increased demand and logistical constraints under Level 4.
“If you want to assist, one of the best things is to donate money – we can utilise money very quickly to support victims who are escaping domestic violence during these very uncertain times.” she explains.
Tanya is grateful for ongoing support from so many people, businesses and organisations, but there is always more needed, especially now.
“When women come to us, 90% of them have nothing. They’ve got the clothes they’re wearing and they’re hanging on to their kids, so they’re literally walking in with the clothes on their backs. It’s very unusual for them to have any money whatsoever. And they’re exhausted and confused and just physically and psychologically at the bottom. It’s women from every single walk of life.”
Donations of money and other items are crucial. Tanya explains that a woman can’t start the process of getting out of a violent relationship and begin to heal if she’s constantly worried about other things. “She’s got enough on her plate without worrying whether she can scrounge seven bucks to get a box of tampons at the supermarket. We can’t help her do the best thing for herself if she’s constantly worried if she and her children are going to eat, or whether the kids need to go to the doctor.”
Under normal circumstances, Tanya welcomes all offers of quality donated items from the public, supermarkets, other businesses and organisations such as Rotary. “We’ve got people who donate some amazing stuff to us. I never say no to anything – that’s my golden rule.”
With everyone is in their own bubbles now, Tanya can’t accept these sorts of things just yet, but she’s asking people who can help to hold on. “While COVID-19 is on – can you hold on to what you have until lockdown is over and I promise you I will come and get it.”
She’s caring for the women and their children in refuge and emergency accommodation with daily phone calls, rather than the usual face-to-face time. “Because it’s tough for them,” Tanya says. “Especially if they’ve got babies.”
Photo: Tanya picks up a bike for 4-year-old at refuge last Christmas. With special thanks to Woven Earth and Bike Barn. Photo credit: Woven Earth
To support women and children escaping domestic violence during this crisis, please give now.