Muslim women are staying away from a domesitc violence crisis centre since a mosque opened next door.
The Auckland Shakti Asian Women's Centre in Onehunga helps women escape violent domestic situations but women are too scared to go because they may be recognised by their husbands or relatives attending the mosque.
The centre has an alternative premises but cannot move in because Auckland City Council has held back planning permission for more than a year.
Meanwhile, Housing New Zealand Corporation is paying $310 a week $4030 so far for security guards to keep vandals away from the empty building that the women could move into.
Centre spokesperson Shila Nair said victims were "really afraid" to go to the centre in Church St, Onehunga in case they were recognised by men worshipping at the Onehunga Islamic Mosque, which is over a boundary fence.
Women who visited the centre usually did so without telling their husbands, she said. "If their husbands, in-laws or any other family members or friends were to know that they have visited Shakti, life for them would be even more difficult. We have had instances of women who visited our Women's Centre later accessing our refuge."
Most were from Middle Eastern, Africa and Asian countries that don't legislate against domestic violence. Staff tell them what their rights are under New Zealand law.
The crisis centre took 4800 phone calls last year on a 24 hour nationwide helpline of which 90% were about family violence. Of the calls, half of the women were recommended to visit for counselling, legal advice or training.
The housing corporation renovated another building for the women to move to after the mosque bought a building next door from the Jehovah's Witness church. The women have been waiting for 18 months for the council to grant resource consent for them to use the house. Council resource consents team leader Ian Smallburn said the consent was "on hold" because of concerns about the impact of parking on neighbours, trees and stormwater. It was not known when the issues would be resolved.
The centre opened a decade ago and is the busiest of Shakti's five branches in Auckland, Tauranga and Christchurch, which together they help 6000 women a year escape domestic abuse.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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