Skip to main content
Logo: Te Ara - The Online Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Print all pages now.

Domestic violence

by Nancy Swarbrick

New Zealand has a long-running problem with domestic violence. Although women can be violent to their partners, it is men who show up most in the criminal justice system for vicious and sometimes lethal abuse of women and children.

Defining violence

Domestic violence is psychological, physical, sexual or economic abuse that occurs among intimate partners, former partners, or whānau/family members. Increasingly the term used for this form of violence is ‘intimate partner violence’ – or ‘male partner violence’, since police investigations of violence between intimate partners overwhelmingly identify male perpetrators.

Sometimes this form of violence is referred to as 'family violence'. The term child abuse is used to refer to abuse of children inside or outside their families.

Physical assault (for example, hitting, stabbing, or attempts at strangulation) often occurs alongside attempts to control a partner or former partner. Coercive behavior includes damaging cellphones to limit contact with others, monitoring conversations with friends and family, stalking, killing or hurting pets, or threatening to kill children or other family members.

Different types of violence

Studies have categorised different kinds of domestic violence:

  • coercively controlling violence involves psychological abuse, often accompanied by physical and sexual abuse. This is mostly perpetrated by men on women and children, and is the most damaging in its effects
  • resistive violence is when a victim of power and control violence – usually a woman – retaliates, often in self-defence
  • situational partner violence is when couples use physical force to deal with problems in their relationship. Although it typically involves minor forms of violence (such as pushing, shoving and throwing things), it sometimes involves serious forms of violence.

Gender issues

Police, courts and social services deal mainly with cases of men assaulting women and children. However community surveys suggest women assault their partners as much as men do. This apparent contradiction is explained by the fact that people responding to surveys tend to report low-level situational partner violence and focus on particular incidents of conflict rather than patterns of control or threats of violence. Also, women assaulting men are less likely to cause serious harm, whereas men may inflict significant physical injuries on women.

Mind games

Psychological threats are often part of domestic violence. A woman who had taken out a protection order against her partner after he had seriously assaulted her many times discovered he had been inside her house and done the dishes. Police were puzzled that she wanted him arrested for doing the dishes – but to her it was a chilling message that he could get her whenever he wanted to.1

Features of domestic violence

Domestic violence is different from other violent behaviour because it is seldom a one-off act but a pattern of repeated behaviour towards intimate partners or former partners that has wide-ranging negative effects. Because it occurs in private, even family and close friends may not be aware that it is happening, or may choose to ignore it. This makes it particularly difficult to assess and overcome.

Domestic violence crosses ethnic and class boundaries, and occurs in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. It often happens in families where there are other problems such as poverty, substance abuse or mental health issues.


Increasingly a distinction is made between one-off acts of violence – situational couple violence –  and coercively controlling violence, a systematic pattern of assaults and intimidation that creates a climate of fear and self-regulation.

Battered women live with fear so profound and demoralising that they can find it very difficult to leave the relationship. Their abusive partners may threaten to harm their children, other family members, their pets or their property if they leave. They often also face economic uncertainty if they are in a low-paid job or reliant on benefit payments. Women who are sole parents may also be stigmatised, especially if they are on state benefits. All these factors can stop women from leaving abusive relationships.

Women experiencing intimate partner violence may become increasingly cut off from friends and family, and lose self-worth and self-confidence, and also a sense of their capacity to make decisions and exercise agency.

Women who live with ongoing domestic violence may develop trauma symptoms such as severe depression and anxiety. They may also use alcohol and drugs to numb their emotional and physical pain. If their partners or family members are known to the police for other reasons, they may not feel comfortable about reporting the abuse. These problems can make it difficult for women who are physically or psychologically abused to seek or receive help.

Hurting children

The impact of domestic violence on children is expressed in a letter written by a boy to the judge when his mother’s violent partner appeared in court: ‘I have tried to take my life because I haven’t been able to deal with the things he has done to me and my family. Sometimes I feel like I have failed my family because I haven’t been able to protect them from this man.’2

Often child abuse and violence between partners coexist. There is now evidence that children are directly impacted by being exposed to domestic violence, and are emotionally damaged even if they are not physically harmed. Children in these situations may imitate the violent behaviour and become violent adults.

Incidence of intimate partner violence

It has been suggested that domestic violence is one of the most common forms of violent crime in New Zealand. In 2016 the New Zealand Police conducted 118,910 investigations relating to family violence. Fifty-five per cent of those who were violent towards females were partners, ex-partners, boy/girlfriends or ex-boy/girlfriends. Many cases are not reported, so these statistics may indicate just the tip of the iceberg.

According to police figures, reported domestic violence more than doubled between the 1990s and early 2000s. This reflects changes in police policy and recording practice, and growing public awareness of the problem and willingness to report incidents. Lower tolerance for domestic violence may also explain the growth in use of refuges. In 2015/16 women’s refuges affiliated to the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges received about 73,000 crisis calls and 2,446 women and children used their safe-house services. Just over 11,000 women and children accessed advocacy services in the community in relation to experiences of family violence.

A troubling aspect of domestic violence in New Zealand is its prevalence among Māori. In 2017 Māori were more than twice as likely be victims of intimate partner violence as other New Zealanders. They were also twice as likely to experience coercive and controlling behaviours. Māori women were just over 15% of the female population but 29% of those using refuge services.

    • Neville Robertson and others, Living at the cutting edge: women’s experience of protection orders, Vol. 1. Hamilton: University of Waikato, 2007, p.6. Back
    • Quoted in Neville Robertson and others, Living at the cutting edge: women’s experience of protection orders, Vol. 1. Hamilton: University of Waikato, 2007, p.51. Back

Domestic violence in the 19th century


Attitudes to domestic violence between men and women in 19th-century New Zealand were shaped by ideas that settlers brought from Britain. Most believed that husbands were the head of the household and some thought this gave them the right, once part of English common law, to ‘correct’ their wives through physical punishment. Others rejected this, arguing that men were women’s ‘natural protectors’. Behind both views was the deep-seated belief that women were inferior to men. Consequently, women were legally, economically and socially disadvantaged. For example, husbands had the legal right to control their wives’ bodies and property. These attitudes were imposed on Māori society, in which violence towards women also occurred. Legal discrimination against women particularly affected Māori women in relationships with Pākehā men.


Domestic violence appears to have been widespread. In Auckland between 1850 and 1875, 11% of prosecutions for violence were for domestic assaults, and prosecutions represented just a fraction of the assaults that occurred. Rape within marriage was not a criminal offence, so it was not reported.

Last resort

Many women endured serious, repeated violence – often with weapons including knives, bottles and hammers – before taking a prosecution. When Catherine Nicolson of Auckland prosecuted her husband John in 1855, she testified that he had beaten her ‘dozens of times’, once so badly that it was ‘more than nine days before I could show my face outside the door.’1

Taking a prosecution

Women usually had to lay a complaint of assault, rather than relying on police to prosecute. Once a woman had complained, her husband was summoned to appear before the police court. At a hearing the case was decided and, if convicted, the man was required to keep the peace, fined or imprisoned. Few assault charges were referred on to the Supreme Court, and those deemed ‘trivial’ were dismissed.

Deterrents to legal action

Some women successfully prosecuted their husbands. However, the cost of taking proceedings, the possibility the case would be discharged, and the light sentences (three months’ imprisonment was typical) discouraged many from laying charges. Fear of ongoing violence was another deterrent. Women were sometimes assaulted by their husbands after a summons was issued.

There were other reasons for staying silent. Few married women had paid jobs, so most were financially dependent on their husbands. If a man was imprisoned, his wife had no income. Many women wanted to avoid the public shame of appearing in court and having the details published in the newspaper.


Women had some alternatives to legal action. One was to stay and tolerate the abuse.

A few women sought shelter with friends or neighbours. Others entered new relationships. Some tried to survive alone, but this usually meant earning money, and job options and rates of pay for women were very limited.

Is it right?

Women campaigning for the vote were acutely aware of the domestic issues many married women had to contend with. A pamphlet written by Kate Sheppard in 1892 asked: ‘Is it right that while the loafer, the gambler, the drunkard, and even the wife-beater has a vote, earnest, educated and refined women are denied it?’2

Divorce was expensive and difficult to obtain, making it an option only for the rich. Divorced people also became social outcasts, so divorce was rare.

Leaving a relationship was risky if a woman stayed in the same area. An estranged husband could hunt down and assault his wife, and until legal reforms occurred in stages between 1860 and 1882, he could still control his wife’s earnings and claim custody of their children. To avoid this, some women fled elsewhere and changed their identity. For example, feminist Mary Ann Muller emigrated to New Zealand from England in 1850 to escape a cruel husband, presenting herself as a widow.


Alcohol consumption was very high in 19th-century New Zealand, and male drunkenness was often a factor in domestic violence. This was one reason women flocked to join temperance organisations. From 1885 until 1893 these and other women’s groups, led by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, campaigned for the vote, believing that this reform would lead to sweeping political and social change.

    • Quoted in Dean Wilson, ‘Community violence in Auckland, 1850–1875.’ MA thesis, University of Auckland, 1993, pp. 43, 51. Back
    • Quoted in Patricia Grimshaw, Women’s suffrage in New Zealand. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1987, p. 81. Back

Changing attitudes to violence, 1893 to 1985

Women were hampered in their attempts to get legal remedies for domestic violence. Winning the vote in 1893 gave them a say at the polling booth, but for years they remained unrepresented in institutions where laws were made or administered. There was no woman member of Parliament until 1933, and for several more decades there were few women politicians. Women could not sit on juries until 1942, and not on an equal basis with men until 1963. There were no women police until 1941, and not many women lawyers before the 1980s.

Support for victims

After 1893, organisations including the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the National Council of Women called for political and legal action on a range of women’s issues, of which domestic violence was just one. It was, however, the central concern of the Society for the Protection of Women and Children (SPWC), formed in Auckland in 1893, with branches set up later in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. The SPWC assisted battered women and took prosecutions, but because of its few branches and funding problems, could give only limited help.

‘The sanctity of marriage’

For much of the 20th century, marriage was widely promoted as the ultimate goal for women, so their educational and work opportunities were restricted. As a consequence, women’s lower status within society, and within marriage, continued. Domestic violence, which exploited and reinforced this power imbalance, remained common. Between 1956 and 1969, for example, 30% of all common assaults recorded occurred within families.

This violence was often trivialised or ignored. The main goal of the SPWC (later called the Home and Family Society) was to preserve the traditional family unit. It was interested only in cases of ‘excessive’ violence, and believed that some women had provoked their abuse. Police took a similar approach, and were reluctant to arrest violent men when called to ‘domestic disputes’. Many people regarded marriage as a special relationship in which other people should not interfere.

Women were also often reluctant to report violence – they were scared of complaints not being taken seriously, of renewed violence as a response, and of turning in someone who they might also still love.


When the women’s liberation movement began in New Zealand in the 1970s, feminists realised that domestic and sexual violence were major problems that had been hushed up. They believed that any violence, not just ‘excessive’ violence, towards women was unacceptable, and set up rape crisis centres and refuges.

Women’s refuges

The first women’s refuges opened in Christchurch (1974), Auckland (1975) and Dunedin (1976) to provide accommodation for women in violent relationships. They were followed by others around the country, and in 1981 they joined together as the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges (NCIWR). In the 1980s refuges run by and for Māori women opened. Later refuges specifically for Pacific women and women of other ethnic groups were started. A nationwide survey of refuges, completed in 1983, gave a more accurate idea of the high level of domestic violence than prosecution statistics could, and led to some government funding for the NCIWR.

Rape in marriage

During the first decades of the 20th century several court cases questioned a married woman’s right to refuse sexual intercourse with her husband. Judges ruled differently in each case, but some supported the right of women to refuse. In the late 1930s, for instance, Justice Henry Ostler stated his opinion that ‘a woman on marriage does not sell her body’.1 However it was not until 1985 that rape within marriage actually became a criminal offence.

As well as offering a safe haven, refuges provided telephone crisis lines and counselling programmes for women and children. They helped women to make informed decisions about the future by providing advice on taking legal action and obtaining benefits and housing. They also ran community education programmes about domestic violence.

Rape Crisis

In 1973 the first rape crisis telephone helpline was started by feminists, and the first rape crisis centre was set up in Auckland in 1978. More groups were set up and two parallel collectives were established: Te Kakano o te Whanau (1985) for Māori women, and the National Collective of Rape Crisis and Related Groups (1986). Like the refuges, Rape Crisis provided counselling, legal advice and support, and also public education.

Stopping violence

In the 1980s men started running non-violence programmes for other men. Organisations working to end domestic violence joined together as Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Putunga/National Network of Stopping Violence Services. The network promoted social change to end men’s violence towards women and children.

Legal aid and the DPB

Law changes assisted women trying to escape violent home situations. In 1969 legal aid became available for those who could not afford a lawyer. The introduction of the domestic purposes benefit (DPB) for sole parents in 1973 made it more possible for women with dependent children to leave abusive relationships and survive economically.

    • Quoted in Barbara Brookes, ‘A weakness for strong subjects: the women’s movement and sexuality.’ New Zealand Journal of History, 27, no. 2 (October 1993): p. 155. Back

Law and policing changes – 1980s and beyond

Domestic Protection Act 1982

The first law to address domestic violence specifically was the Domestic Protection Act 1982. This provided for non-violence and non-molestation orders, to be made on application to the district or family court.

A non-violence order applied to a person who had used or threatened violence against their partner or children living in the same household. This person could be arrested and held for 24 hours.

The non-molestation order prevented a separated partner from stalking the applicant or entering their property. It ceased to apply if the couple began living together again.

In addition, occupation and tenancy orders were available to enable the applicant to keep living in a previously shared home. A 1986 amendment introduced mandatory stopping-violence programmes for perpetrators of intimate partner violence.

Police policy changes

Police adopted a more assertive approach to domestic violence incidents in 1987 after a trial in Hamilton. Recognising the risk of retribution faced by women with violent partners, they decided to arrest offenders if an assault was detected, rather than waiting for the victim to make a complaint. They also began referring victims to Women’s Refuge for immediate support.

Domestic Violence Act 1995

A study of continued breaches of orders in 1992 found that the police pro-arrest policy was poorly implemented, that offenders often received very light sentences, and that intimidation and harassment were often not seen as sufficient reasons for granting orders. Many of the study’s recommendations were incorporated in the Domestic Violence Act 1995.

Under the 1995 Act the definition of domestic violence was broadened to encompass psychological and sexual as well as physical violence. It was also applied to a wider range of relationships, in recognition that family members, same-sex partners, flatmates, carers and anyone close to the victim could use power-and-control violence. Causing or allowing a child to witness abuse was also defined as domestic violence.

The protection order replaced the non-violence and non-molestation orders, applying equally to offenders living with or separated from the victim. As with the previous orders, it could be granted without notice to the respondent. Before 1995 a hearing was held to decide whether an order should become permanent, but now this happened automatically unless the respondent made a legal challenge. Penalties for breaching protection orders were raised, and increased in severity with each breach. Offenders were expected to attend stopping-violence programmes.

Mediation or murder?

One of the problems with the Domestic Protection Act 1982 was that the Family Court often tried to resolve conflict through counselling. This proved inappropriate in cases of domestic violence, as often the meetings exposed women to abuse and intimidation. One woman was killed by her former partner as she left court-ordered counselling.1

A related amendment to the Guardianship Act 1968 prevented violent partners who had been served with a protection order from having access to their children unless the courts were satisfied they would be safe. This was to prevent people from killing their children to take revenge on an estranged partner.

Reviewing the act

Although many people working to reduce domestic violence agreed that the Domestic Violence Act 1995 was good legislation, it did not protect many women and children. Between 1995 and 2007, when the act was reviewed, more than 200 women and children died in domestic-violence-related homicides.

Not stopping violence

Battered women surveyed for the 2007 review of the Domestic Violence Act often stated that, in their experience, court-ordered stopping-violence programmes for their partners did not work. Men refused to attend or did not complete the courses.

The 2007 review concluded that implementation of the act was often inadequate. It found that the conditions under which a temporary protection order was granted had been tightened, and that breaches of protection orders were not always followed up by police, particularly if they did not involve physical violence. Men breaching protection orders were rarely convicted, and those who were received light sentences. Some men successfully applied to have protection orders discharged, even when they had breached them, and gained custody of or continued access to children.

Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Act 2009

This act introduced safety orders, enabling police to remove the alleged offender from the home for up to five days to ensure the immediate safety of the victim. These orders were to be used in situations where there was insufficient evidence to arrest the person, but reason to believe domestic violence could occur. Judges were allowed to issue protection orders when sentencing an offender, penalties for breaching protection orders were stiffened, and those failing to attend a court-ordered programme could be imprisoned for up to six months.

Recent family violence legislation

In September 2016 the Government announced the overhaul of legislation relating to family violence and the allocation of $130 million to fund more police officers and social workers to respond to families in which there were extreme versions of family violence. A new range of offences would be created and there would be more support for the victims of domestic violence. 

The Ministerial Working Group on Family and Sexual Violence identified the need for 53 law changes across a number of different pieces of legislation including the Domestic Violence Act, the Care of Children Act and the Crimes Act. These legal changes followed the production of a discussion paper in 2015 on Strengthening New Zealand’s Legislative Response to Family Violence and analysis of public submissions relating to this document.

The foreshadowed changes were supported by the National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges. They stated that: 'The changes made to support and strengthen legislation, including Protection Orders, are important as they highlight and address the serious and insidious patterned behaviour that underpins family violence; it also sends a strong message to those that continue to abuse that there will be serious consequences.'2

In December 2016 Green Party MP Jan Logie introduced the Domestic Violence – Victims' Protection Bill 2016. The Bill passed its first reading on 8 March. The aim of this legislation is to protect victims of domestic violence by provisions that allow them to request variation in their employment arrangements. It provided for a minimum entitlement to 10 days paid leave to deal with the effects of domestic violence. The Justice and Electoral Committee will report to parliament on this legislation on 29 March 2018.

The Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill was introduced by Hon. Amy Adams in March 2017. It included significant amendments to the Domestic Violence Act 1995 and changes to other relevant legislation. The new legislation supported a cross-government approach to family violence as well as clear codes of practice and new information sharing strategies. It included mechanisms for improving the effectiveness of police safety orders and protection orders.  It also created new criminal offences and provisions for more accurate recording of family violence.

This Bill passed its first reading and the Select Committee reported back to parliament on 16 August 2017. The 2017 General Election in September 2017 occurred before this legislation went to a third reading. The New Zealand Labour Party (in government since October 2017) while welcoming a review of domestic violence legislation, was critical of aspects of the Bill. New legislation in this field is likely to come before parliament in 2018.

    • Neville Robertson and others, Living at the cutting edge: women’s experience of protection orders, Vol. 1. Hamilton: University of Waikato, 2007, p.6. Back
    • Ang Jury, quoted in Women’s Refuge welcomes family violence legislation changes, media release, 13 September 2016, Women's Refuge New Zealand.  Back

Domestic violence – 21st century

In the 21st century domestic violence remains a major problem in New Zealand.

Protection order breaches

Many men continue to breach protection orders. For some, being served with a protection order acts as the spur to even greater violence, and domestic homicides continue to occur. It is now recognised that without a specific safety plan and support systems for the woman under threat, a protection order is ‘just a piece of paper’.1 Used wisely, however, protection orders can be effective.

Sounding the alarm

Emergency pendants (with a button to summon emergency services) for victims of serious domestic violence can save lives. This was the case in 2009 when a woman’s former partner threatened to kill their children. He tied her up, and removed her phone and cellphone. She was able to summon police and the man eventually gave himself up. Unfortunately funds were insufficient to supply pendants to all who needed them.

Barriers to escape

Many women do not apply for protection orders for the same reasons that they remain in abusive relationships. These include shame, dread of losing custody of their children, and above all else, fear. Having a low income but not qualifying for legal aid may prevent some from applying for a protection order. Lack of money limits options for women wanting to escape a violent situation and make a new life for themselves. Women in some ethnic and religious groups can find that they are condemned rather than supported by their families and communities.

Whānau violence

Violence within whānau is a major concern in Māori communities. While this was unknown before European settlement, Māori men are now almost five times as likely to commit a homicide as men of other ethnicities. Māori intimate partner violence is frequently associated with poverty, poor housing, unemployment and marginalisation. This is an international trend among indigenous people.

Most of the women attending hospital emergency departments or Māori health providers after an experience of intimate partner violence have children living with them. Children’s exposure to violence among adults in their homes increases the possibility of intergenerational transmission of family violence.

A response to whānau violence

In 2001 Māori health reformer Mason Durie wrote: 'There is no historical support for claims that traditional Mäori society tolerated violence and abuse towards children and women, or that some members of the group were of lesser value than others. An unsafe household demands a whänau response and, as an immediate priority, an assurance that safety can be provided – elsewhere if not at home. Then, safety guaranteed, the way is clear to embark on a journey which will relieve hurt, restore healthy relationships, and, in the process, strengthen personal and group identities.'2

Tikanga Māori specific frameworks for understanding and addressing whānau violence have been developed and the inadequacies of mainstream western approaches to domestic violence identified. Action in Māori communities to address whānau violence is directed not only on keeping women and children safe, but also using a kaupapa Māori (customary knowledge) approach to support mothers as parents of children who have been exposed to violence.

Interventions also focus on Māori working with Māori to change the behaviour of men who use violence or threats of violence to control family members. Men’s responsibility to intervene and change the behaviour of other men is a major focus of stopping violence programmes among Māori.

Pacific Islands and immigrant women’s issues

Refuges and safe houses have been established specifically for Pasifika women where people from their own communities support them. Immigrant women also face particular difficulties, including language problems and separation from family and their familiar culture. If their abuser is also the sponsor of their application for residence, they are especially vulnerable.

Shakti New Zealand has been established as an organisation that responds to the needs of immigrant women from Asia, Africa and the Middle East who are experiencing intimate partner and family violence. It has campaigned to prevent forced and under-age marriages in New Zealand.

Outing violence

Recent research has highlighted the need to support people in a range of sexually and gender diverse relationships who are experiencing intimate partner violence. Because they may have struggled to gain acceptance from others of their life choices, those who are sexually or gender diverse may be cautious about talking about coercive control in their relationships with partners or ex-partners. This may contribute to the invisibility of abuse in Rainbow relationships among those who identify as aka’vaine, asexual, bisexual, fa’afafine, fakafifine, fakaleiti, FtM, gay, gender fluid, gender nonconforming, hinehi, hinehua, intersex, lesbian, mahu, MtF, pansexual, polysexual, queer, takatāpui, trans man, trans woman, transgender, transsexual, whakawahine and more.

To find out more about experiences of unsafe relationships and issues with accessing support, seventeen hui were held across the country with members of the Rainbow community. An anonymous survey was also distributed in New Zealand through Rainbow community print and online networks in late 2015 and early 2016. Information from the meetings and the survey suggest that abuse is present in relationships in this community and most frequently takes the form of emotional, verbal and psychological abuse. There was little awareness of support services and an assumption that they were only available to cis (non-transgender) women. Sex-segregation of family violence services (only for women or men) were often a stumbling block for those who did not identify with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.

Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura – Outing Violence was set up in 2015 as a central hub for information and resources that can be used to improve responses for Rainbow community members experiencing violence.

Tolerance for violence

A key issue is the entrenched belief of some people that violence is acceptable or excusable behaviour and that husbands/partners or former husbands/partners with a history of intimate partner violence can be good fathers. Domestic violence is not just the responsibility of the perpetrator. It has been suggested that ‘men’s violence against women is largely sustained by the way the community and the state collude with the abuser.’3 An example of this is the court-ordered name suppression that has been granted to prominent men convicted of assaults.

Coercive control

There is increasing recognition that intimate partner violence is not confined to physical violence, but includes the use of psychological, economic and emotional violence to control or coerce a partner or former partner. The exercise of coercive control has been documented among couples using the Family Court to resolve issues relating to the custody of their children and access arrangements.

Contestation about children following separation can involve ongoing legal disputes which are emotionally challenging and also financially costly. This may occur alongside harassing texts or emails, stalking and action that makes a woman fearful about her safety. Legal documents that threaten to disrupt current arrangements for the care of children and involve negative statements about their parenting can also be experienced as threatening. This has been identified as a form of 'paper abuse'.4

Support agencies

A range of agencies provide counselling and support for victims to enable them to leave violent situations. These include women’s refuges and Shine (formerly Preventing Violence in the Home). Visitors to the Shine website can access information about services to help victims of domestic abuse and also hide the history of their online access to the site. Shine also seeks donations and provides information on creating safe workplaces for staff experiencing abuse. Support programmes, first introduced under the Domestic Violence Act 1995, provide information and assistance for protected persons and their children.

New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse

In 2005 the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse, a partnership between the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges, Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga/National Network of Stopping Violence Services, Jigsaw and the Ministry of Social Development, was set up. It was an outcome of Te Rito: New Zealand Family Violence Prevention Strategy, developed in 2002 by the Family Violence Focus Group. The Clearinghouse coordinates and distributes research on domestic violence.

Why doesn’t he stop hurting her?

Many people who do not understand the complex nature of domestic violence ask, ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ But it is more to the point to ask, ‘Why doesn’t he stop hurting her?’

Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families

The Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families, a group of decision-makers from organisations working to prevent domestic violence, was established in 2005. It promoted the Family Violence Interagency Response System to build stronger links between groups including the police, Ministry of Social Development and women’s refuges. Another initiative was the Campaign for Action on Family Violence, which started in 2007. It used a website and television advertisements to spread the message that violence is not OK, using as presenters men who had made the decision to become non-violent.

Family Violence It's not OK

This community driven, government supported campaign directed at changing violent and abusive behaviour in intimate relationships, whānau and families grew out of the Campaign for Action on Family Violence in 2007. It stresses that family violence is not OK, that seeking help is OK and that it is also OK to help. The focus is not just on physical violence, but on the damaging effects of one person using power and fear to control another.  

A range of information has been developed to help people in diverse communities run campaigns. It's not OK is administered by the Ministry of Social Development. A website provides information about what to do if you are experiencing any form of abuse. Those experiencing family violence can also access the stories of those who have had similar experiences.

The White Ribbon Campaign

The White Ribbon Campaign in New Zealand  is a branch of an international movement that began in Canada in 1991. It seeks to change men’s attitudes and behaviours through men taking responsibility for their own actions and those of other men. Men and women work together to challenge violent behavior.

The White Ribbon Campaign began in New Zealand in 2004, and since 2006 has been funded by government agencies and other groups working to overcome violence against women. On 25 November, International Day for the Eradication of Violence Against Women, supporters wear white ribbons to show their support for non-violence and respectful relationships between intimate partners. White Ribbon organises workshops and prepares public information directed at improving relationships between women and men and protecting children from the effects of violence in the home. 

    • Quoted in Kerry Williamson, ‘We need to all have our eye out for violence’, Dominion Post, 4 July 2009, p. D3. Back
    • Mason Durie, Mauri Ora: the dynamics of Māori health. Auckland: Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 208. Back
    • Quoted in Neville Robertson and others, Living at the cutting edge: women’s experience of protection orders, Vol. 1. Hamilton: University of Waikato, 2007, p. 8. Back
    • Quoted in Vivienne Elizabeth, 'From domestic violence to coercive control: towards the recognition of oppressive intimacy in the family court'. New Zealand Sociology Volume 30, no. 2 (2015): 26. Back

External links and sources

More suggestions and sources

How to cite this page: Nancy Swarbrick, 'Domestic violence', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 24 May 2024)

Story by Nancy Swarbrick, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 19 July 2018