The first Women’s Refuge was established in 1973, in Christchurch by a group of women who saw a need to provide safety for many of the women and children they saw being abused in their community. From their courage and determination, the refuge movement in Aotearoa was born and in 1987 Eastern Refuge Society was established in Counties Manukau East.
In order to provide assistance to women and children in our community it is important to understand what family violence is and how it looks in real life. It is most important to recognise that family violence is an active participant in the lives of almost 1 in 3 New Zealand women. Violence within the home may present differently from culture to culture and from socio-economic group to socio-economic group, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.
Many people believe that domestic abuse only includes physical violence; in fact there are many types of abuse. For many of those women and children using our services, physical violence is a very small part of their abuse. Here are some of the definitions and what they mean.
One of the most common forms of abuse is psychological abuse. Psychological or emotional abuse includes things such as putting you down, minimisation of violence, threatening to harm you or themselves, damaging belongings, stalking, preventing you from contacting your friends or family, isolation, harming or threatening to harm pets, constant criticism, allowing children to witness acts or participate in psychological violence, using children as a tool of control, using coercion, and using male privilege. Although there are no physical scars, the damage caused by psychological abuse is harmful and the effects are far reaching without adequate supports. Psychological abuse is never okay.
Physical abuse can happen once or on a regular basis; either way it is not acceptable. Physical abuse includes punching, kicking, slapping, biting, throwing objects, strangling or choking, burning, forcing you to take drugs, preventing you from leaving, or using any kind of weapon.
Women often experience sexual abuse along with physical abuse. This can include coercion or guilt to engage in the act of sex, forcing you to do sexual acts, forcing you to watch or participate in pornography, making you have sex to stop a fight or calm the situation, sexual acts in order to get access to food or money, or any kind of unwanted talking or touching where you feel uncomfortable.
Economic abuse happens when the abuser does not allow you to have a say in money matters and takes control of the money. Your partner could take your money or belongings, not let you work or force you to work, checks up on every cent you spend, keeps money for themselves while you struggle to buy necessities for you or your children, gambles your money away, forces you to do anything illegal money wise, puts debts in your name, or does not contribute to the costs of your children.
This kind of abuse refers to an attack on your soul or wairua. Spiritual abuse includes stopping you from expressing your spiritual or religious beliefs, putting down your beliefs, stopping you from following your dreams, cutting you off from your cultural heritage and preventing you from being you.
Violence always includes a fear factor. Women and children are afraid to express an opinion or make a decision. They often walk on ‘eggshells’, worrying what will happen if they do something that the abuser doesn’t like. They are afraid that no one will believe them and things will be worse if they tell someone. They may be ashamed, think that they deserve it, or that they are to blame for the violence. There are no excuses for violence against women or children.