One in three

This week’s column in the Nelson Mail investigated the link between the lack of accommodation in Nelson (and many others part of New Zealand) and vulnerable women. As usual I didn’t have much space in the paper, so below is links, interviews notes and extras. 


Statics from Women’s Refuge – (

New Zealand Domestic Violence:

  • One in three women experience psychological or physical abuse from their partners in their lifetime1.
  • On average 14 women, six men and 10 children are killed by a member of their family every year.
  • Police are called to around 200 domestic violence situations a day – that’s one every seven minutes on average.
  • Police estimate only 18% of domestic violence incidents are reported.
  • At least 74,785 children and young people aged under 17 were present at domestic violence situations attended by police.
  • 84% of those arrested for domestic violence are men; 16% are women.
  • The economic cost of domestic violence was estimated at $1.2 to $5.8 billion per year by economist Suzanne Snively in 19962. In today’s figures, that would be up to $8 billion.
  • In the 2009/10 year there were 3,867 domestic violence cases in the Family Court which each involved at least one child.

Statistics about Refuge:

20,000 women and children needed the help of Women’s Refuge in 2013.

  • In 2012-13, refuge provided 76,000 safe beds for women and children – an average of 209 a night.
  • The average length of stay in a safe house in 2012-13 was 24 days for a woman and 29 days for a child. This is an increase from the previous year which was 20 and 26 days respectively.
  • On average, of the women who seek our help, 64% report psychological abuse; 49% report physical abuse; 23% report financial abuse; 21% report harassment and stalking; 12% report spiritual abuse; 12% report sexual abuse and 11% report that weapons were used. 24% of women reported that children witnessed or heard the abuse. (note most women experience multiple forms of abuse so these figures will not add up to 100%)
  • Women’s Refuge receives an average of 82,000 calls to its Crisis/Support lines every year.
  • Women’s Refuge responded to 1,500 Police Safety Orders in 2013  (compared to 880 prev year) They are not paid for this work.
  • Police refer more than 27,000 Family Violence Interagency Response referrals to Women’s Refuge each year. They are paid for only 2200 of these referrals.


Statistics from Are You OK? – (

  • 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence from a partner in their lifetime.
  • 78% of partner homicides in New Zealand are men killing their current or ex female partner.
  • 9% are men killing their ex-partner’s new boyfriend.
  • 2% are women killing their male partner.
  • 29% of women and 9% of men experience unwanted and distressing sexual contact over their lifetime.
  • 85% of sexual violence is committed by someone known to the victim.


Carrie Menza, co-ordinator Nelson Women’s Centre. (

The Women’s Centre operates through a mix of central govt funding/community funding, and philanthropists.

It is not a crisis centre par se but women do turn up in crisis.

There is two fulltime roles, 2 partime roles, 6 volunteer councellors. Altogether 30-35 women working there daily in some capacity or another.

There’s 25 similar centres around NZ, they are one of only three that is owned entirely by the occupants.

They have close relationships with SASH which works in the same building, and Women’s Refuge.

Women are vulnerable for so many reasons  – accommodation, low incomes, solo parenting, beneficiary, disabilities.

The Women’s Centre acts as conduit for huge number of support organisations – WINZ, CYF, Housing NZ, Nelson Housing Trust, community groups, legal aid.

“One of the single most dramatic improvements we could make would be to reduce housing costs in Nelson.” Costing many women 60% of their income.

“Then their low income would go further, improve the health of the home – and improve their health.”

Nelson Tasman Trust are insulating 100 homes in Nelson this year – nominations come as referrals from GPs. Funding is from ECA/Canterbury Trust.

No women’s shelter in Nelson, but there is emergency accommodation option through a collaboration between about 8 agencies.  Units can sleep 1-3 people for 1-2 weeks.

Homelessness: “It’s a devastating, enormous problem, for them, and for our community and society.”

From the Women’s Centre Annual Report:

Increased usage of Womens Centre this year: 3358 clients, up 11% on previous year, and an all-time high.

Key reason for visit was use of social workers. Worked with 71 families classed as high risk.

85 new counceling clients this year, up on usual 50-60.


Katie O’Donnell, Manager of Nelson Women’s Refuge (

Refuge can house women anywhere from one night to three months, the average stay is 3 to 6 weeks. The safe house needs to be safe environment so there are some restrictions on who it is available to.

Refuge has contacts with other local accommodation options if the safe house is full or not compatible.

Katie is calling for more collaboration between agencies in Nelson – WINZ, CYF, GPs, hospital, housing.

Discussion on the definition of ‘homeless’ – people might have somewhere to sleep but it’s not suitable.

Refuge can help in emergencies, what about longterm? Schools, transport, affordability, safety, health?

Bulk of funding is via MSD, some from local lotteries, some needs to be raised. The Christmas appeal is coming up. They need food, toys, clothing, furniture, toiletries.

“Women and children sometimes have to leave without anything. They arrive to us with nothing. The kids have had to leave all their toys behind, the women have no clothes.”

“Our volunteers do such an amazing job. They manage the crisis line.” More volunteers are needed – training is provided.

Also of interest, this previous article about Katie and the Refuge in the Nelson Mail, key quote: O’Donnell said she had seen increased awareness of family violence. “That can lead to an increase in reporting. That’s a good thing, but I don’t know if it [violence levels] is getting any less.”


Full statement from Janine Dowding, Regional Commissioner for MSD. 

Work and Income has two Family Violence Response Coordinators based in the Nelson, Marlborough, and West Coast region.

Their role is to provide mentoring and support to staff in how they can help clients who disclose family violence issues to them.

These specialist staff are also the conduit to key stakeholders working in the field of domestic violence response, such as the Police, Women’s Refuge and Victim Support.

160 people disclosed family violence issues to Work and Income Case Managers in Nelson Marlborough and West Coast  between 1/05/2013 – 1/05/2014.

Anyone who is in a situation where they are victims of domestic violence will be treated with urgency when being assessed for social housing.

Given their circumstances, Work and Income has a range of options and help available when responding to the needs of domestic violence victims.

This includes providing immediate placement options by linking them to emergency housing providers, including Women’s Refuge, when there is no other accommodation for them.  We will ensure they are assessed quickly to determine eligibility for social housing.

Where someone is due to leave a refuge or other emergency housing accommodation, we work closely with them to ensure their priority on the social housing waitlist accurately reflects their changing circumstances.

We will also connect them with the appropriate agency to ensure they get the help they need.

In cases where a person needs to relocate due to domestic violence, we can assist with travel to other places in New Zealand and accommodation set-up costs.


Pollyanne Pena, Organisational development coordinator, Shakti (

Funding for refuges varies regionally, whether they are part of the collective or not.

Shakti in Wellington is 100% community funded.

Sustainability issues. How long can we rely on the kindness of strangers and our friends?

“The crisis call lines are funded for a certain number, but we receive far over that number. And that’s most often the way women get in touch with us. We can’t just shut down the line.”

“We’re forced to live off the backs of volunteers.”

Christchurch Rape Crisis shut down – they only needed $30,000 to keep open.

“The People’s Report [from the Glenn Inquiry] shows there to be oversight of domestic violence as a separate issue. It should have its own portfolio.”



1. The Glenn Inquiry into child abuse and domestic violence –

The following quotes are from a Nelson Mail editorial on the Inquiry:

“The first report from the Glenn Inquiry into child abuse and domestic violence, funded by philanthropist Sir Owen Glenn, was based on interviews with more than 500 victims of domestic abuse, frontline workers and offenders.

Most of those people said New Zealand’s system for tackling child abuse and domestic violence generally was not working. They criticised the court system as dysfunctional and often unprofessional, agencies such as Work and Income as insensitive and inconsistent, and support services as poorly designed and inadequate.

An economic impact study published this week focuses on the costs of domestic violence. The figures highlighted in a press statement from the inquiry are arresting. Child abuse and violence between partners are estimated to be costing the country up to $7 billion a year and rising.”

2. Closure of the Christchurch Rape Crisis Centre  – Radio NZ.

3. List of sexual assault support services nationwide, from Rape Prevention Education.

4. National Government policy announcement from July this year – “Chief Victims Advisor Underpins Package to Prevent Family Violence.” (An important note here – this was six months ago. No CVA has been appointed).

5. More about this policy on the National Government website –

6. Article in the NZ Herald regarding the cabinet reshuffle following the election, where I sourced this quote: “Ms Bennett said housing portfolios were critical – and one of the most important areas to help reduce poverty.

7. A speech by Green MP Jan Logie at ‘The Women’s Forum’ before the election, (under the current National government) “we have seen the erosion of our women’s rights, economic position and pathways out of violence. They have cut the targets for women’s representation, legislated against equal pay, and removed vital protections for victims of sexual and domestic violence.”

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