The impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on domestic violence in New Zealand

One of our wonderful White Ribbon Ambassadors Mele Wendt MNZM was invited to speak about domestic violence in New Zealand with a particular focus on the impact of COVID-19 in a webinar jointly presented by UN Women Aotearoa New Zealand and the United Nations Association of New Zealand and Wellington. We are delighted to be able to share this link to the webinar if you missed the opportunity to take part on the 23rd of June. The webinar was really informative and featured four fantastic speakers Mele, Dr Ang Jury (Chief Executive of Women’s Refuge), MP Jan Logie (Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice -Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues) and Superintendent Eric Tibbott (NZ Police).

Dr Jury highlighted some of the challenges Refuges faced and the ways they adapted to the lockdown. While she was happy to make observations about what occurred Dr Jury noted that the true impact on women and children will only emerge over time. She is very concerned about the effect of a recession coming on the heels of the lockdown, describing it as the “perfect incubator for family violence.”

MP Jan Logie was very positive about the response to COVID-19 locally, calling it “the best example of government and community partnership she’s seen.” The government response was shaped by research based on the overseas experience and previous New Zealand crises like the Christchurch earthquakes. They wanted to ensure there was clear communication that help was available, that Family Violence was still being taken seriously and that financial support was accessible.

Superintendent Eric Tibbott provided a lot of information about changes in the way NZ Police are responding to domestic violence call outs. He acknowledged the value of international research that demonstrates that there are usually multiple episodes of family violence before a person reaches out to police. They are now focused on getting officers to think beyond the incident and focus on identifying underlying stressors and contributors to help prevent harm. Superintendent Tibbott noted a UN population fund report which predicts a twenty percent increase in family violence across its member states as a result of COVID-19 and its impact globally. In light of these dire warnings it was really positive to hear that the helpline Hey Bro saw a significant increase in people reaching out for support during the lockdown.

Mele Wendt MNZM spoke about the key drivers of violence, her own experiences of domestic violence as well as White Ribbon’s kaupapa and COVID-19 campaign to try to provide sensible suggestions to keep people safe. Mele emphasized the importance of reaching out for help, contacting the Police and advocated strongly for greater resourcing to support perpetrators to change their behaviour.

With the current community transmission of COVID-19 and the return to the Level 3 restrictions in Auckland the thoughts of the speakers on the impact on domestic violence are especially relevant at this time.


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