While the rate of infections slows, hidden victims of the lockdown grow—those living with family violence.
Trapped in homes with their abusers, they are isolated from their friends and extended family, and may experience violence happening more often, more severely or taking different forms.
The lockdown has seen an increase in new referrals to Tauranga Living Without Violence, an agency whose primary focus is the safety and wellbeing of women and children.
Their team have been working remotely to support clients during the lockdown, providing their behaviour change and educational programmes and one on one support over the phone.
Tauranga Living Without Violence General Manager Paula Naude says the service is a lifeline for many women in lockdown who rely on the guidance and support to keep themselves and their children safe.
“We have one mother who has a protection order against her ex-partner who has continued to breach it. Being in lockdown with four children, a son who is starting to emulate his father’s behaviours, pregnant and with cancer… it’s an extremely difficult situation.”
“We have spoken a couple of times a week and she is very appreciative of the communication and continuing safety conversations. She has also booked her children in to participate in our children’s programme once they are able.”
Their work also aims to change violent behaviour though education, ensuring healthy relationships can grow.
“We are focused on engaging with perpetrators about their patterns of coercive control and addressing those in meaningful ways. The most effective way to keep victims safe is by keeping eyes on the perpetrator and helping him to find better ways of relating.”
The overriding message the group wants both victims and perpetrators to know is that help is still available.
“It might be delivered differently but specialist family violence services, helplines, and police/enforcement mechanisms are still operating. We are here to help.”
The group received much-needed additional funding last week through the Rapid Response Fund, allowing them to purchase webcams and speakers for video calls, and upgrades to caseworkers’ mobile phone packages for unlimited call time to support those in need.
The fund, established by local funders TECT, Acorn Foundation, BayTrust and Tauranga City Council, aims to support community groups facing increased demand and/or funding shortfall due to COVID-19.
TECT Trustee Amanda Sutcliffe says the ability to provide support virtually for those most vulnerable in our community was essential.
“Family violence has a devastating impact on people across our region. For those stuck in lockdown with their abuser, it can feel like there is no means of escape.
“We are glad this funding can assist Tauranga Living Without Violence to provide support in a variety of ways, so that victims know they are not alone, and perpetrators know there are safer, more respectful ways of relating.”
If you or a loved one are experiencing family violence, contact Tauranga Living Without Violence on 0800 577 003. For those who cannot make calls, visit www.tlwv.org.nz to make a self-referral, send an email or to learn more about the different programmes available.