No festive cheer for many
A month of Christmas cheer has been a December of domestic violence for many homes in Manawatu, with police reporting an increase in callouts and Women's Refuge safe houses close to full capacity.
The first few weeks of summer have been marred by domestic violence incidents, with nearly 150 callouts in the wider Manawatu region, including Palmerston North, Feilding, Dannevirke and Marton.
Police said the number of incidents around the districts increased this month, with officers responding to protection order breaches, shouting matches and serious assaults using weapons.
Dannevirke police have dealt with more than 10 domestic violence callouts since the start of the month. One man was taken into custody yesterday for threatening to kill his partner and attacking her with a blunt weapon.
The number of domestic incidents also jumped in Marton this month, with 12 callouts since December 1, Constable Richard Gower said.
Alcohol fuelled fighting during the festive season, with more social occasions increasing the potential for violence, he said.
"It happens every year as the festive season is celebrated. Unfortunately, as always, it is the result of those not big enough – whether in age or mental maturity – being able to handle their alcohol," he said.
"Alcohol used wisely can add enjoyment to many, but to those who abuse it, grow up or give it up."
About 80 domestic incidents have been reported in Palmerston North this month, and about 40 in Feilding, a "slight increase" on previous months, Feilding's family violence co-ordinator Senior Constable Allan Wells said. Financial pressures, families spending more time together and substance abuse were causing tensions.
"We know it's a stressful time of year, but if people bear that in mind and take a little space when they need it, go for a walk or something, it should help."
Constable Wells said domestic violence numbers could double over the weekend, depending on the atmosphere, but police were working with high-risk families to help prevent further harm.
Palmerston North Women's Refuge's two safe houses are also nearly full, with only one spare bedroom left.
Manager Ang Jury said the refuge is housing six women and about seven children across the two houses, but women who need help over the coming weeks would not be left out in the cold.
"This Christmas has been quite odd for us because normally over the summer period we have a busy crisis line, but don't have a huge residential demand, but that's not the case this year."
The refuge, which works closely with affiliate services both around the city and the country, has seen a marked increase in victims of family violence needing help with housing, Dr Jury said.
"It's a lot harder these days to find houses for women to be in. A lot of women we work with don't have the credit background to get into private rentals and they end up staying with us longer than they used to – an average stay used to be about 10 days, but now it's anywhere from three weeks on."
Dr Jury said most women who went to the refuge were dealing with domestic violence "daily".
They had, at least, had a nice Christmas this year.
"Thanks to support from our community the women had ham, a gingerbread house, lamb, and the children even had a few presents."
Danger signs of a violent relationship:
Constant monitoring and checking
Being put down; told you are useless, criticised and blamed
Being threatened with cruelty and death
Being hit, shaken, shoved, choked and slapped
Being forced to have sex
Becoming isolated from friends and family
For advice, call Women's Refuge on 0800 733 843.