Help & support > FAQs

About family violence

  • Family violence can be a range of behaviours that affect everyone in the family and wider whānau. It can take the form of physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse (including making threats, name-calling, controlling who you see, put downs, hitting, imposing and unwanted sexual contact). It can be a one-off situation or a pattern of abusive actions towards a family/whānau member that causes fear and harm. While it’s normal to disagree and argue in a relationship, it’s not ok to make your partner feel scared for their safety or intimidated into doing things they don’t want to.

  • There are different types of abuse in relationships. Sometimes we know what we’re doing isn’t ok and at other times we do these behaviours without understanding the impact on people we care about.

    Coercion and threats
    When someone uses force or threats to make someone do something or stop them from doing something, even if the person does not agree. They may also use threats of harm against someone or something the person cares about, which can leave them feeling trapped as they have less freedom, choice, or ability to make their own decisions.

    Physical abuse
    When someone uses physical force against another family/whānau member or causes injury in any way.

    It may start with a shove or a grab but often gets worse over time. It can grow to be more harmful actions like hitting, kicking or strangling the person, who will feel scared and worried about being harmed again.

    Sexual abuse
    Any unwanted sexual act or activity, including harassment involving words, actions and pictures, unwanted comments or actions including rough sex, and sexual violence such as sexual assault and rape.

    Without informed consent, or if someone is pressured or threatened into saying yes, any sexual activity is sexual abuse.

    When someone does or says things to make another person feel afraid of them so that they’ll do what the person wants. It can also be a stern look or other non-verbal behaviours or giving the ‘silent treatment’.

    When someone stops the other person from having connecting relationships with their friends, family/whānau or their community. They might make most of the decisions in the relationship including how and where the other person lives, works or socialises, meaning they become more reliant on them as their only support.

    Using children/tamariki
    When someone uses their children/tamariki as a way of controlling someone, to get at them, or keep the other parent “in their place” or stop them from leaving the relationship. They might stop the other parent from doing what they think is best for the children/tamariki or use the children/tamariki to create conflict or to punish the other parent.

    Economic or financial abuse
    When someone controls or attempts to control a person’s financial independence. This may be making a person financially dependent on them by maintaining control over financial resources or withholding access to money. This form of abuse limits a person’s ability to make choices, access safety and they can experience more harm as a result.

    Emotional abuse
    When a person says or does something to make the other person feel scared, confused or doubt themself. There may not be physical violence, but abusive words and actions can also cause harm. In an emotionally abusive relationship, a person can be made to feel that there is no way out or that without their partner they’ll have nothing. The ongoing impact of emotional abuse can chip away at a person’s sense of who they are and what they’re worth.

    Privilege is the advantage that people who fit into certain social groups have over other people in other social groups. Someone could use their privilege based on being male, of a particular ethnicity or culture (e.g. white privilege), being cis-gender (someone whose gender identity aligns with their birth sex), or being able-bodied. When a person uses the privilege they have in society against another person, this is a form of abuse. While people in advantaged groups can still face challenges in their lives, it is important to acknowledge that privilege exists.

    Using internalised homophobia, biphobia or transphobia
    When someone says or does things to make another person feel bad about or hide their gender/sexual identity. They may pressure someone into acting ‘straight’, over-sexualise them or say they don’t belong in rainbow spaces.

  • People who use violence may not realise they’re doing harm, or want to change their behaviour but don’t know how to. If we invest in helping them we could see some of the following benefits: 

    • Through family/whānau-led change, the cycle of intergenerational trauma/violence could be broken, setting up a positive future for children/tamariki
    • They learn about how their behaviour is impacting their loved ones
    • They learn safe coping strategies
    • They find support with people who don’t judge them, including others on a similar change journey
    • They start to become more aware of what makes them tick
    • They can work through their own past trauma
    • Other issues might be identified that contribute to their behaviour (such as alcohol and drugs) and they can find support.
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