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Crisisline: 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843

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Family violence is a pattern of power, control and coercion. Abuse is not just physical, trust your intuition.
If something does not feel right to you, then it’s not OK.

If you are being abused, remember it’s not your fault. No one deserves to be abused, and we are always here to help you. At Women’s Refuge, we won’t judge you. We will listen to you and support you to make choices for your safety.

At Women’s Refuge, we provide the support and information you need when you’re dealing with violence in your life.

What is family violence?

Family violence is when someone uses coercion, power, fear, or intimidation to control someone they are in a close, intimate, or household relationship with.


  • It can be physical, sexual, psychological, or economic.
  • It usually, but not always, happens in the home (not in a public place), therefore it is hidden.
  • The coercion, control, and other abuse tactics are often subtle and difficult for victims to explain to others.
  • These tactics adversely impact every aspect of victims’ (and their children’s) lives, including their health, their dignity, and their opportunities to build safe, viable, and fulfilling lives.
  • The majority of perpetrators are men, and the majority of victims are women and gender minorities.
  • Disabled women, rainbow/takatāpui (especially people who are bisexual and transgender) wāhine Māori, and young women are the most likely to be subjected to family violence.

Different Types of Abuse

Below are different types of abusive behaviour that can occur.

Psychological or Emotional Abuse

Threatening to harm you or the children, damaging belongings, stalking, isolating from friends and whānau, actions or threats, hurting animals or pets, constant put downs and belittling, exposing children to trauma.

Economic Abuse

Withholding money, monitoring the finances, making all the financial decisions, demanding proof of all expenditure and checking receipts, alloting a allowance.

Sexual Abuse

Forced to have sex, feeling sexually harassed, being made to engage in degrading or unsafe sexual behavior, being made to watch pornographic material.

Physical Abuse

Slapping, beating, punching, kicking, strangling, shaking, biting or pinching. It may involve the use of weapons and can cause serious long term injury or fatality.

Spiritual Abuse

Feeling as though your spirit/wairua is being attacked, stops you from expressing your spiritual or religious beliefs, stops you going to church/ temple, puts down your beliefs, uses their/your religious beliefs to justify their behaviour.



At Women’s Refuge we are much more than safe houses. 

The majority of our clients are in the community.

There are advocates in the Refuges throughout New Zealand trained in all areas of family violence and they will be able to advise and support you wherever they can including a plan to leave. You can call them for a confidential chat, you don’t have to commit to anything if you don’t want to they are just here to listen.

Our free confidential services include:

  • 24 Hour crises line, 0800 REFUGE
  • Home and community visits
  • Support in isolated regions
  • 24/7 access to our safe houses
  • Advocacy when dealing with police, legal, court, WINZ, housing, doctors, schools and Oranga Tamariki
  • Referrals to counsellors, doctors, lawyers and other support services
  • Education and support groups for women and children about living free from violence

Thinking of leaving?

Are you thinking about leaving? We encourage you to make a plan, be cautious about how you implement it, and make positive choices in your life.

There are challenges to leaving any relationship, especially when there is abuse and violence involved. It’s very common for women to leave their abuser several times: Women’s Refuge have found that a woman can leave and return to an abuser between four and seven times before she can feel strong and supported enough to make it permanent. We are always here for you not matter how many attempts it takes.

However, from working with tens of thousands of domestic violence cases over time, we’ve noticed some patterns.

Five things we’ve learned about leaving

  1. Leaving doesn’t get easier with practice.
  2. Staying with an abuser is likely to get harder to cope with and more dangerous for you and your children as time goes on.
  3. The reason you leave the first time will almost always be the same reason you leave the last time.
  4. You, and only you, will be the best judge of when it is safest to leave.
  5. All your efforts to keep the peace at home will never work. Why not? Because domestic violence is about your abuser, not you. It is their responsibility to change – and you can only choose whether or not to be around them in the meantime.

Some advice from us to help your decision-making

Be proud that you have done whatever you needed to do in order to keep yourself and your children safe, but you all deserve to live without fear, shame and anxiety.

If you’re considering your options, there is no right or wrong way to feel at this moment. You are likely to be feeling a mix of emotions that change in strength and urgency throughout the day, and over time.

There are many things to consider, so try to get clear in your mind before you make your final decision. Talking to someone you trust or people who know about violence against women may help you with the choices you need to make. Do not let the person abusing you know you are thinking of leaving. You can phone our confidential Crisis-line if you want to talk to a Women’s Refuge advocate on 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843.

It’s important to make a safety plan, whether you’re choosing to stay for now or leaving the relationship. Please get in touch with your local refuge to discuss making a plan, you can find their contact details on our website.

And finally, know that there are stories from brave women who have found the courage to leave abusive relationships, and been rewarded with peaceful, loving lives. Because around half of all murders committed each year in New Zealand are domestic violence related, many women believe leaving was the best decision they ever made.

How to help a loved one who is experiencing abuse

Being a victim of family violence is never a choice

Only the person using violence can choose whether the violence stops or continues.

Women might make the choice to end the relationship, but that doesn’t mean they can end the violence. People often want to tell women to ‘just leave’ their abusers. But leaving is not always safer than staying. Women are most likely to be killed around the time that they are separating from their abusers. Of women who access Women’s Refuge, 50% believe their abusers might kill them at the time that they reach out for help.

It is important when speaking to a loved one experiencing abuse to ask the right questions and actively listen to the answers:

  • “I’m worried because he seems to make you feel bad a lot the time. How safe do you feel with him?”
  • “I’m wondering if you have any concerns about how he’s behaving towards you?”
  • “If anything is happening at home and you don’t feel safe, I’m always up for a chat about it.”

Always affirm, believe, validate, and reflect:

  • “It’s okay to talk about it here, you can tell me as much or as little as you want.”
  • “I’m really glad you told me.”
  • “This was not your fault.”
  • “That sounds really tough.”
  • “You’ve been dealing with a lot.”

When someone shares that thing are not right, gently check out the situation:

  • “Are you safe right now?”
  • “Would you like me to call the police?”
  • “Would you like to tell me some more about that?”
  • “How are you coping with that?”

If someone opens up to you about abuse they are experiencing it is important to follow-up after the conversation:

  • “What’s the safest way to get in touch with you?”
  • “How can I help you? Is there any practical things I can help with.”
  • “Would you like me to sit with you while you call Refuge?”

It takes a lot of courage and often a lot of time to leave an abuser. It is important to be non-judgemental.  Respect your loved one’s decisions even if they decide to stay – they still need your love and support. On average it can take 7 attempts to leave for good. For more information on how to help a loved one call our crisis-line on 0800 Refuge.

Based outside of New Zealand?

We can only assist those currently living in Aotearoa New Zealand. If you are living outside of New Zealand, please visit to find your nearest support services. is a directory of helplines, local shelters and crisis centers that is accessible for everyone – victims, survivors, family or friends, service providers, embassy or tourism staff, or anyone looking to find support.