The Women’s Refuge in Tokoroa noticed a surge in demand for food parcels as family tensions rose in level 4 lockdown.
Refuge manager Maria Bradshaw said lack of food and online sales of alcohol, which the Government classified as an essential service, were two leading drivers of family violence.
“Last time there were certainly families struggling but it is much worse this time,” she said.
“Police ask what started [family violence incidents] and it is lack of food, arguments about going to the supermarket, and about people shopping online buying alcohol and spending all the food money on that.
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“There have been a range of incidents from verbal arguments right up to stabbings, strangulations and loss of consciousness, some really serious stuff.”
The refuge has had to delve into operational funds to meet needs, having received no additional Government funding, Bradshaw said.
“We are noticing an absolute desperate need for food which is different from last time,” she said.
“We bought $1500 worth of food the other day and put parcels together because people obviously can’t focus on family violence when they are worried about feeding their kids and they won’t leave an unsafe situation if they think their children are going to go hungry.”
“Single mums find it really hard to get to the supermarket too and if they do get there, we’ve noticed a real shortage of nappies and infant formula.
“We are enormously grateful to Fonterra for sending us cartons of infant formula so we have been able to distribute that to families for free, it has been amazing, and our national office in Wellington put together packs of nappies for us but we have ongoing need for food, that has been a real pressure point for all agencies.”
She also questioned the logic behind allowing liquor outlets to be able to sell online during lockdown.
Although services are busy, people should still seek help or report concerns, Bradshaw said.
“Pick up the phone and call the police or refuge if you’re concerned about someone being in an unsafe bubble.
“We also need people to understand that family violence trumps Covid lockdown. People are generally more at risk from violence than they are from the virus.
“I talk to women who say they didn’t call police because they think they have got enough to worry about at the moment and they think they might get into trouble if they leave their bubble but they won’t, the minister has made that really clear.”
She said people’s response to family violence during lockdown will also have an impact on generations to come.
“I want people to realise that children now will tell their children and grandchildren about the pandemic and lockdown and people need to think about what memories they are creating.”
Bradshaw said help for men was also on hand if they felt they may become violent or abusive, and that included calling the police.
“If men have the courage to pick up the phone and do that then that is awesome.”
Anyone wanting to donate food and entertainment items for children can make contact via the refuge’s Facebook page.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story reported that cases of family violence in Tokoroa spiked during lockdown. However, Women’s Refuge has now clarified that numbers provided to them from police were misinterpreted and there was no spike in cases.