Unfortunately for many people the Christmas period means markedly more violence.
Instead of celebrating Christmas time and holidays some families – quite a few of them – get the bash instead.
Violence is one of the biggest blights on New Zealand society.
The Herald is trying to confront this.
New Zealand has the worst rate of family and intimate-partner violence in the developed world. Over the Christmas and New Year period the number of incidents spikes dramatically. Fewer than 20 per cent are reported to the police – so what we know of family violence in our community over the festive season is barely the tip of the iceberg. Today we have a simple message – every Kiwi has a right to a safe, fear free and happy holiday. We are revisiting our campaign We’re Better Than This to raise awareness, educate, and give an insight into the victims and perpetrators. We want to encourage victims to have the strength to speak out, and abusers the courage to change their behaviour.
They have a case study in partner violence: Athlete’s ex-wife – I kept it hidden
The ex-wife of a former top sportsman has spoken of her abusive marriage in a bid to highlight the fact that family violence can and does happen in all Kiwi homes.
She is one of many people prompted to talked about their experience with family violence by the Herald campaign We’re Better Than This.
“It started with him kicking me and then pulling my hair, spitting on me and pulling me, shoving me.
“He would tell me when I told him it was physical abuse that it wasn’t because he had not used his fists.”
When she was heavily pregnant with her second child, she became upset at her husband when he arrived home late.
In response, he dragged her across their bed by the hair and would not let her go until she apologised for berating him.
As a society we have to be better than this, and this means we need to talk about it more openly.
Family harm and intimate partner violence happens in the poorest of Kiwi homes and the richest.
Among the victims are our most educated people, and our most vulnerable.
They are young and old. They are from all ethnicities.
The term family violence encompasses intimate partner violence, child abuse, elderly abuse and the abuse of disabled people within families. By far the most significant of all family violence is men abusing women.
“I got married when I was 21 to a guy I met at church, who I thought was a great guy,” said Sarah, who did not want her surname published.
“When we were dating I noticed … how critical and harsh he was [to others], but … I thought ‘he will never treat me that way’.
“He had this charm and confidence which I was initially attracted to.
But when they got married:
He started calling her derogatory names and became extremely controlling, demanding to know what she spoke to her friends about.
“He didn’t like me going to my doctor by myself and would insist on coming because ‘I couldn’t explain myself well’,” she said.
“He would grab me, shove me against walls, put his head up to my face and scream.”
That took a huge toll on her mentally and physically, but she “kept up appearances” at work and in public so the world thought they were a “happy young couple”.
“All this time I had no idea I was in an abusive relationship. I thought that was for older women who have been badly physically abused.
“The psychological torture of those times [was] horrible.”
We as a society have to be better than this.
If you’re in danger NOW:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours or friends to ring for you
• Run outside and head for other people
• Scream for help so your neighbours can hear you
• Take the children with you
• Don’t stop to get anything else
• If you are being abused, remember it’s not your fault. Violence is never okay.
Where to go for help or more information:
• Women’s Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 – 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am-11pm every day – 0508 744 633 2shine.org.nz
• It’s Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice: justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence: nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men’s violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. whiteribbon.org.nz