Women’s Rights Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo is encouraging women to seek help immediately if they find themselves in an abusive situation during the COVID-19 isolation.
Often, people who were already in an abusive situation will likely find themselves facing more extreme risk while being isolated from family, friends, colleagues and even neighbours. Calling for help by picking up the phone is no longer safe while under the same roof as the abuser.
“While I wholeheartedly support the purpose of the lockdown, I recognise that isolation provides an opportunity for abusers to unleash more violence. For some, ‘staying home’ is simply not safe.”
“COVID-19 has heightened the risks for those most vulnerable to family violence especially women, children, disabled and rainbow people and those from our ethnic-minority communities. Isolation does not mean that you should tolerate violence. You are not in this alone.”
Saunoamaali’i is urging abusers to call for help before intentionally hurting family members. Agencies available for help include 0800HeyBro helpline (0800 439 276), Gandhi Nivas (0800 426 344), and others.
“In many ways, we all are feeling stressed, anxious, or even angry. Losing a job, a business, hours of work, sleep, connections with friends are not reasons to lose control and abuse those who care for you. There is absolutely no excuse for violence.”
In extraordinary times like this, we need to be creative in how support is made easily accessible and affordable. Assuming that people can dial in for assistance from the comfort of their home is not helpful.
“We could use the few essential services like pharmacies, supermarkets, petrol stations and dairies as places where both victims and perpetrators can reach out for help, without stigma or blame by providing special phones and free internet services so they can search for support agencies when this is not possible from home.”
“If you are worried about someone in your street, whānau or community who might be vulnerable, please do not ignore what you hear, see and feel. Keep the lines of communication open and encourage them to seek help sooner rather than later.”