Learn » Blog » Rebuilding lives with Women's Refuge

Rebuilding lives with Women's Refuge

Published on 06/12/2023



WomensRefuge v2

Insights from the Women's Refuge team.

It has been a rough few years with the Covid pandemic where we were all forced to stay at home and only leave the house to collect the essentials. For most of us this was a bit uncomfortable trying to juggle working from home, home schooling and just our everyday lives. For others though this time was not just busy but, in many cases, it was extremely unsafe.

Although Covid-19 is not as prominent as it once was and we have all been able to move on with things, the effects of the pandemic have lingered and now we are facing a cost-of-living crisis. This has proved to add pressure to many situations where home life was unsafe to begin with. In the last year Women’s Refuge has had 52,000 referrals to our service! This number is also not conclusive of what is happening out there as there as we know 67% of family harm incidents go unreported. In Aotearoa, a staggering 1 in 3 women are affected by family violence – it is fair to say that someone you know out there will be experiencing family harm.

Our 40 affiliated refuges that are right across New Zealand from Kaitaia to Invercargill and are there 24 hours a day seven days a week to help those who need them. With some of the advocates needing to travel hours to support. From the moment a woman reaches out they are there to assist in whatever way they can whether that is taking them to the police station to make a statement, talking the school about why the children have has so much time off, getting in touch with the bank to organise new accounts, help with any budgeting advice and finding a new place to live. Essentially whatever they need to realise a violence-free life our advocates work with them to make it possible.

Our clients do not always need to come into the safe houses, the perpetrator may have been removed from the property or they may have family or friends that they can stay with. We do not just work with those in the safe houses, we also support those who have been able to stay in their own homes. Advocates will visit these clients in their homes and make sure they are happy to stay, once their safety has been established a safety plan is put in place as a precaution. A safe room is set up and steps are taken to make the home as safe as possible. Of course, the advocates work does not stop there, just like clients who enter the safe houses advocates help these families with whatever they need to rebuild their lives.

Debbie* has accessed Refuge services twice. Often it takes several attempts to leave an abuser for good and we are there no matter how many times someone may need us. She reflects that both times, she was relieved she had somewhere safe to be with her children while she tried to figure out what to do next, and that it was somewhere she could get support without stigma or shame. “There’s no judgement at the end of that call, just a kind voice who wants to understand and help your situation, especially for the kids”.

On both occasions Debbie’s two young children have gone with her to Refuge, and they understand it’s a place they must go to when they can’t be safe at home. “Having the support from the advocates at Women’s Refuge meant the whole world to me. I felt like I was a terrible mum for taking the girls to Refuge, but the social workers convinced me I was the opposite – that I was an awesome mum for wanting a better life with my daughters. If I didn’t have the help from Refuge when I did, I’d still be living scared every day.”