Kia Haumaru - King Country News
Updated: Apr 3
Two years of ongoing and occasionally prolonged lockdowns are taking their toll on women in relationships and their children.
Family violence notifications have increased in volume, frequency and severity, so much so that intervention workers and agencies are calling it the "Shadow Pandemic".
Roxy Coervers is kaiarahi (manager) of Kia Haumaru - Personal Safety Education, targeted at women keeping themselves safe and delivering a kaupapa equally focused on physical defence from attack and teaching the tools women and girls can use to build themselves up and improve relationship with themselves and others. Formely known as the Women's Self-Defence Network - Wāhine Toa, Kia Haumaru has its roots in the 1970s, when a wave of enthusiasm for women's self-defence training emerged as part of the wider Women's Liberation Movement. (The programme in the King Country is co-ordinated and delivered by Mel Goodin.)
Roxy calls family and intimate partner violence "the darkest part of the world we give our children to grow up in" - and lockdown restrictions have made it darker.
"When we came out of the initial Level 4, I did some research. The statistics are dramatic. In the same fortnight I was looking into that, only four of the most serious were picked up by the media - four women were killed," Roxy said.
"But we already had a shameful track record - New Zealand is one of the highest of the OECD countries for violence against women and children."
Lockdown restrict and complicate access to support and its delivery where it's needed - for some of those in abusive relationships, the weekly hour at the supermarket became the only opportunity to seek help or support.
Programmes in schools often bring disclosures of traumatic experience from the girls, giving Kia Haumaru a current snapshot and comprehensive overview across communities - and abuse is prevalent in all of them, Roxy said.
"It's not getting better, lockdowns make the prevalence of violence worse and it seems to be escalating - the last six months in Auckland we could only deliver a third of our classes (in schools), but there were still 80 disclosures in that time.
"Escalation in violence is not accompanied by escalation in funding - a lot of our sister services have been struggling and when we have communities in need [everywhere], demand quickly outstrips any funding available."
"Theories of change" have not been entirely helpful to those working with victims of violence - she said larger ministries are moving from a focus on supporting victims "to working with the perpetrators' mind sets" from a theory that says if you can help them stop doing it, you've solved the problem.
"But it's not as simple as just throwing money at the perpetrators - we don't know it's going to shift and [meanwhile] agencies working primarily with victims struggle for support."
"They have to go together - they both need funding, time and effort. This particularly does have a strong focus on addressing family violence and I do feel encouraged by that. But it will never be enough until we can tackle the systemic causes in an entirely holistic - there are so many triggers for violence."
"Because [Kia Haumaru] works in relationship with communities, we hear the voices of lived experience and can lift and advocate for them, so the higher-ups can know what is genuinely necessary."
"My generalised experience is that Government and local councils will listen. But from listening to hearing involves a concrete stem and nine out of ten times, it's 'hand over some money'."
"I don't know how we can unravel family violence, but thousands of us are trying in order to prevent entrenched lines of violence and trauma that trickle down through the generations."
"From every disclosure we take, there is a direct positive impact on that girl's life - we liaise with the schools, make sure services are engaged and action is being taken to change the situation the girl is in through no fault of her own. Someone has genuinely heard her, and it gives me a sense of hope."
"But with these high notifications of violence in families and communities, the glimmer is a little harder to hold on to".