Police call on communities to 'take action' against family harm

Police report a spike in family harm call-outs over Christmas.

Police report a spike in family harm call-outs over Christmas.

Police are urging friends and family to stand up and take action against family harm, as the number of Christmas incidents surge.

Police attended 38 family harm incidents in a 24-hour period this week in Canterbury. 

Police family violence, youth and victims services manager, Inspector Glenn Nalder, said family harm remained one of the biggest concerns for police in Canterbury.

He estimated they would respond to over 1000 family harm incidents in December. 

"If family harm is happening in your family and whanau, then take action. Get help for yourself ... even if you're the one doing the harm."

Nalder said family and whanau must not look the other way when things went awry. The signs of abuse could be insidious or covert.

"Everyone has a responsibility and a part to play."

More than 110,000 family violence investigations were recorded by police across New Zealand in 2015, an eight per cent increase on the previous year.

A common theme running through all reported incidents at Christmas was alcohol. The message from police was simple.

"Drink responsibly and limit alcohol intake. As adults, have a think about what you might be modelling for your children. What you're doing today, they might be doing in five or ten years time. We have a responsibility to help break that cycle."

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Financial pressures in the lead up to Christmas played a part.

"It can be a difficult time of year. If you think it's taking its toll the message is to get help early. It's OK to ask for help."

Earlier this year, the first Integrated Safety Response (ISR) pilot was launched in Canterbury to address family violence.

The "collective response model" pulled together several government agencies, including Police, Child Youth and Family and Corrections, with specialist family violence NGOs.

As of November 29, 3673 "episodes" had been recorded through the ISR in Christchurch.

Nalder said the pilot was in its early days, but it was hoped it would help reduce Canterbury's family harm statistics and break troubling cycles of re-victimisation.

ISR executive director Leanne McSkimming said the new approach meant agencies were more connected in the support that was provided.

"It is focussed on family and whanau so it is very much about addressing and supporting the whole family's needs, as opposed to just victims or just perpetrators."

Family violence service, Aviva, would operate throughout the holiday period.

Aviva marketing and funding manager Julie McCloy​ said December was generally busier for police, as people who were involved in or witnessed violent situations looked to seek an immediate crisis response.

McCloy said demand would increase well into the new year.

"Infact, the real spike in demand for our agency is at the end of the holidays, and March is our busiest month ... every year.

"Families often try to hold things together throughout the holidays, but once they are over that is when people seek to make a change. This is where the true fallout of Christmas occurs and the financial pressures that have built up then have to be addressed."

Family harm providers:

  • ​Are You OK? For information about family violence, what it is and where to get help.
  • Family Violence Information Line (0800 456 450)
    Provides self-help information and connects people to services where appropriate. It is available seven days a week, from 9am to 11pm, with an after-hours message redirecting callers in the case of an emergency.

  • Child, Youth and Family
    Phone 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459) if you are concerned about a child or young person.

  • Women's Refuge
    Phone 0800 REFUGE (733 843) or look in the White pages of the phone book for your local refuge.

  • Shine 'Making homes violence free in NZ'
    Free helpline 0508 744 633 provides information to victims of family violence and to those worried about a friend or family member who might be experiencing family violence.

  • National Network of Stopping Violence is a network of community organisations working to end men's violence to women and children across New Zealand.
    To find your nearest office visit the National Network of Stopping Violence website.

  • Community Law Centres are located throughout the country – look in the White pages of your phone book.

  • Victim Support groups are located throughout the country – look in the White pages of your phone book.

 - Stuff

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