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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 do we know about Family Violence?

This is what we know about violence in families/whānau:

  • Family violence or violence within whānau is violence that happens between people who are connected by relationships, for example intimate or familial (not strangers).
  • It usually, but not always, happens in the home (not in a public place), therefore it is hidden.
  • Family and intimate partner violence describes a pattern of power and control, where the person being abusive engages in behaviours to try and dominate and control the other person/people.
  • Family and intimate partner violence includes psychological, emotional, physical, sexual, economic and spiritual abuse that damages the victim/survivor on a physical, mental, emotional and/or social level (explained further below).
  • Aotearoa New Zealand has some of the highest reported rates of intimate partner violence in the developed world.
  • Over 1/3 women in New Zealand report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence, and over 1⁄2 psychological/emotional abuse from an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • In 2016, there were 118,910 family violence investigations by New Zealand Police.
    In 2016/17, Women’s Refuges received 50,645 crisis calls (an average of nearly 140 a day), and 26,699 women and children used Women’s Refuge services, including safe houses, support, and advocacy.
  • There were 92 deaths due to intimate partner violence between 2009 and 2015.
  • Men perpetrate most violence and abuse. Women and children are most often the targets of violence and abuse.
  • Violence affects women at any age, with or without children, regardless of their ethnicity, sexuality, economic circumstances, education, or employment.
  • Perpetrators often have a sense of entitlement and self-righteousness.

Family and intimate partner violence is a gendered issue

Because family and intimate partner violence is about one person exercising their power over the other person or people, the fact that men have historically held greater social, political and economic power than women has strong links to the higher proportion of men who perpetrate abuse against their partners.

Some women perpetrate violence against their partners (female or male) or against other members of their household. However, the vast majority of intimate partner violence is directed against women by their current or ex male partners (husband, de facto partner, boyfriend or lover). Furthermore, men’s violence is more severe, frequent, and is embedded within a significant range of other behaviours of power, control, and coercion (see below for full consideration of these abusive behaviours).

Because of this high level of men’s violence and abuse against women, family and intimate partner violence is considered a gendered issue; that is, it is something that largely affects women, often in significant and life changing ways, and is largely perpetrated by men. There are, of course, other power inequalities in our society that are also significant factors in intimate or family relationships, such as sexuality and ethnicity. Factors such as colonisation, racism, heterosexism and homophobia can contribute to people’s vulnerability and disadvantage in relation to others.

Perpetrators may also use these racial or homophobic prejudices to justify their behaviour, or to gain greater power over their partners.

The presence of these power inequalities in our society reveals the large-scale injustices that are related to family and intimate partner violence.
The relationship between these social inequalities and family violence does not mean that this type of violence is inevitable within particular households or relationships, nor does it justify the use of violence and abuse. Rather, it reveals that violence and abuse at an intimate and family level is strongly related to systems or patterns of power and control at a broader socio-political level.

Violence in same-sex relationships

Violent and harmful behaviours are not just limited to heterosexual relationships. For lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, takatāpui, intersex, queer, asexual (LGBTTIA+) the abuse can involve psychological, physical, sexual, economic, and spiritual abuse (as described above).
Perpetrators can also:

  • Threaten to ‘out’ you to family or work-mates
  • Put you down because of your sexuality
  • Stop you from being open about your sexuality
  • Threaten to tell Oranga Tamariki/Ministry for Children or the court that you are a bad mother because of your sexuality. Similar to men’s abuse towards women, violence by female partners is about them trying to control and dominate their partner.
  • LGBTTQIA+ who are abusive are often not exposed because:
    • Their partner fears being ‘outed’ to family, former partners or employers
    • There is mistrust about the reaction from police, Courts, support agencies and media (fear of homophobia)
    • Their partner or others who know about the violence do not want to expose the LGBTTQIA+ community to wider public scrutiny
    • Other people do not understand the dynamics of violence in LGBTTQIA+ relationships those who are victims of same-sex violence may not know where to go or who to trust to talk to about the violence

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is any behaviour that causes harm or distress to an older person, inflicted by someone they should reasonably be expected to trust.

Elder abuse can be physical, emotional or financial. It can be a one off occurrence or it can happen repeatedly over a period of time. It includes different forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation, both intentional and unintentional.

The 5 commonly used categories of elder abuse are:

  • Physical abuse, inflicting physical pain or causing injury, including inappropriate use of force or restraint and use of medications that sedate or cause harm.
  • Sexual abuse, non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
  • Psychological/emotional abuse, inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts.
  • Financial/material abuse, illegal or improper use of funds or other resources, and/or exploitation.
  • Neglect, failure to meet the physical and emotional needs of an older person.

Family violence and disabled people

Are you afraid or feel you may be put down by someone close to you? Do you feel your disability is used against you? Abuse can be from a family member or a support person. It can start as not listening or neglecting you, and can escalate into verbal, sexual or physical violence. Both men and women can be targets of violence, but the majority of victims are women. Many people with disabilities are stigmatised. This can make it even harder to seek or receive help and makes it even more important that you are listened to and believed. If you talk to someone who does not believe you, keep trying.

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 more than just Safe Houses


Our free confidential services include:

  • Confidential, non judgmental support
  • 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, school’s 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.

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 Crisisline 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.

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.