Media Release 21 June 2021
Women’s Refuge releases Kids in the Middle research
Today, Women’s Refuge release a first of its kind research report into what children need to feel safe after family violence. The research was made possible by funding from The Warehouse Group. Nineteen children aged 5-13 were interviewed by specialist researchers about their experiences of finding safety and support. Women’s Refuge Chief Executive Dr Ang Jury says the research emphasises the need to have the right people in place to support children after family violence. She says that in New Zealand and internationally, services have tended to work either with kids or with family violence, but rarely both simultaneously. “Children talked about what brought them to Refuge, and underlined the losses, transitions, and disruptions that were caused by perpetrators’ use of violence. For them to have the best possible support, they need someone walking alongside them who is both a specialist in family violence and a specialist in working with kids.”
“You don’t need to be shy, we are with you” is what eight-year-old Kauri remembers hearing his advocate say on his first day at Women’s Refuge. When asked how he felt hearing that, he replied “I felt safe”. His brother Ihaka, aged nine, was asked what he would tell new kids at Refuge. He said he would tell them “it’s fun, it’s amazing, and it’s cool, too.”
Kahurangi, aged 10, explained why family violence advocates are helpful. “It helps you in life and it just keeps you good [and] makes you feel good”. Charlotte shared this sentiment about the value of specialist support, she explained that “unlike other people, they would be able to listen and actually understand”. She went on to say that family violence advocates understand “that you have been having a hard time, and you need help understanding what you need to do and know if something like that happens.”
All of the kids that took part in the research were forthcoming with their thoughts, feelings, and memories of being in Women’s Refuge safe houses or programmes. The children’s reflections of their time at Refuge prompted us to think differently about how kids cope with the aftermath of violence. Overall, they had positive recollections of being there – they made friends, had the chance to both learn and actively help other kids in ways meaningful to them, and they found comfort in being somewhere safe with their Mum. Children also offered constructive feedback about how Refuge could put kids right at the centre of everything we do. As nine-year-old expert, Charlotte, says: “It’s really good, [but] they can make it better. There is always room for improvement”.
Lead researcher Cleo Arathoon says, “It was an absolute privilege to be in the company of these incredible tamariki. I was blown away by how prepared and willing they were to contribute their knowledge to an issue close to their hearts. Their determination to help other kids shone through in every interview. With their expert insight we have been able to reconsider how we prioritise and practice alongside children in our services. I want to extend a huge thanks to all the mums who allowed and encouraged their children to be part of this first of its kind research.”
Dr Jury says the only way to improve support for kids is to listen to the expert voices of children themselves. She acknowledges that like other services, Women’s Refuge has not always had capacity to be fully attuned to what safety looks like from children’s perspectives. “As the name suggests, Women’s Refuge was set up with women in mind. But as this research highlights, thinking about kids as an extension of their Mums isn’t good enough – children are clients in their own right, with emotions and experiences of family violence equivalent to those of adults.”
The children that participated in the Kids in the Middle research knew that many more children, just like them, would one day experience Refuge. Charlotte’s voice was echoed by the others when she exclaimed: “There are more kids who need help every day, there are kids that need help!”. Ihaka, aged 9, gave a very deliberate answer when asked why Refuge needed to help more kids: “So, more kids feel safer… instead of unsafe”. These children reminded us of our responsibility to them and the ‘countless others’ and offered solutions so we could support future children to feel “happy and cool”, “nice and happy” and, of course, “safe”.
Dr Jury says that instead of looking at children who have lived through violence as needing to learn how to cope, we should honour their incredible abilities and capacity to not just cope, but to care for and contribute to others. She admits that their preoccupation with making Refuge better for future kids surprised even her. “None of the kids who took part wanted to improve the service for their own benefit – they wanted it to be the best it could be for all the other kids who would access it in the future.”
The Warehouse Group are continuing their wonderful support of the Kids in the Middle research with their upcoming Mega Toy Month campaign. For every toy purchased, in all stores and online, between 30 June and 27 July 2021, The Warehouse will donate up to $250,000 of the proceeds towards bringing to life the kid’s recommendations for making Refuge spaces warm and welcoming. Tania Benyon, The Warehouse Group Chief Product Officer, commented, “We’re extremely proud to be working with Women’s Refuge and to support their hard work in reducing family violence in New Zealand. We want to help give a voice to the courageous children who have shared their stories with us through this research. That’s why we’ll be donating up to $250,000 of the proceeds of our toy sales this Mega Toy Month to help create child-focused pathways in Refuges around the country, including play rooms, a welcome video, and the introduction of a child-advocacy programme. We hope by doing this they can feel safe and find comfort at Refuge. ”
Senior Communications Advisor
027 571 2110
Download the research here.