Abuse and safety

Key points about abuse and safety

  • Abuse is defined as any action that intentionally harms or injures another person.
  • Abuse is never okay.
  • Find out about the different forms of abuse and where you can go to get support whether you are being abused or are the abuser.
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  • Abuse can happen to anyone of any age or gender and from any walk of life.
  • No matter what your situation, you deserve to live without pain and fear.
  • Whether you’re the abused, the abuser or a concerned friend or family member, there is help available. It’s not okay to abuse someone, but it is okay to ask for help.
  • Learning about the different types of abuse and what you can do to stop or prevent abuse can make a difference in your own or someone else’s life.
Protect your privacy

Other people may be able to find out that you have been to this or other sites that talk about family violence. If you are a victim of family violence or abuse, you can hide your visit(external link).

It's never okay for anyone to use violence to hurt or control you. 

  • Nobody has the right to assault another person.
  • Nobody is allowed to have sexual contact with another person without permission.
  • Nobody has the right to use intimidation, threats or mind games to gain power over another person.

Abuse can be physical, sexual, psychological, financial or spiritual. Neglect is also a form of abuse.

Physical abuse includes:

  • hitting and punching
  • biting, pushing, choking or pulling your hair
  • making you drink or take drugs when you don't want to
  • using or threatening to use weapons.

Sexual abuse includes:

  • forcing you to have sex or do other sexual acts you don't want to do
  • touching you in a way you don't want
  • frequently accusing you of sleeping with other people
  • forcing you to watch porn or other sexual material against your will.

Psychological abuse includes:

  • making you feel like everything you do is wrong
  • constantly criticising you or your friends
  • humiliating you in front of your friends
  • using unsafe driving to frighten you
  • damaging property/walls/possessions to scare you
  • stopping you from seeing friends and family so you feel isolated and alone
  • blaming everything on you
  • threatening to take the children away or hurt them
  • stalking, following or checking up on you
  • harming pets to punish you
  • making you scared of what might happen next.

Financial abuse includes:

Spiritual abuse (attacks to your wairua or spirit) includes:

  • belittling your whakapapa, beliefs, traditions or culture
  • not allowing you to participate in church, temple or other religious activities
  • stopping you from expressing your spiritual or religious beliefs
  • manipulating or coercing you to hold certain beliefs or carry out religious practices against your will
  • inappropriately using spiritual or religious beliefs and practices to justify other types of abuse and violence.  

Neglect includes:

  • not providing enough food, clothing or warmth
  • leaving dependents alone or with someone who is unsafe
  • not providing comfort, attention and love
  • not providing appropriate or necessary medical treatment.

Credit: NZ Police

Family violence is a crime

It is not a private matter. It is one of New Zealand’s most serious social issues. Elder abuse is also a significant concern.

  • Between 33–39% of New Zealand women experience physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Family violence is one of the leading causes of injury and death to women.
  • It also leads to short and long-term health problems such as mental illness, and problems with sexual and reproductive health. 
  • Children who live in a home where there is violence are significantly more at risk of being the victims of physical, sexual and psychological abuse and neglect than other children.

Family violence can be carried out by anyone you are in a domestic or close relationship with. They don't have to be living with you. It could be a:

  • partner or ex-partner
  • carer
  • friend
  • flatmate or family member.

Family violence is never your fault

If you are a victim of family violence or in a relationship that makes you scared about your own or anyone else's safety, seek help as soon as possible. You have the right to be safe.

If you're unsure whether your relationship is abusive or not, you can take this positive relationship quiz.(external link)(external link)

If you are in immediate danger, call the Police on 111. They will respond straight away.

National helplines

  • Are You OK: Phone 0800‑456‑450 (9.00 am to 11.00 pm).
  • Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children): For immediate concerns about the safety of children, when a child's behaviour is putting the safety of family members at risk, uncertainty about what to do next, or for advice phone 0508-326-459 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
  • Shakti: Help for migrant and refugee women of Asian, African, and Middle Eastern origin who are victims of violence and abuse phone 0800‑742‑584.
  • Shine: Advocacy and refuges for victims of domestic abuse phone 0508-744-633 (9.00 am to 11.00 pm, 7 days).
  • Women's Refuge: Provides education programmes, support services, information, and safe housing to women, young people and children experiencing abuse, crisis line phone 0800‑733‑843.
  • Victim's information: A government service that provides information about local support services and the justice system to anyone affected by crime, phone 0800‑650‑654.
  • Victim support: Emotional and practical support, information, referral to other support services, and advocacy for the rights of victims, phone 0800‑842‑846. 

Wellington region

For longer-term and ongoing protection from a violent person, you can apply for an order:

Family violence – where to get help(external link)(external link) Ministry of Justice, NZ
Victims information for people affected by sexual violence (English)(external link)(external link) Ministry of Justice, NZ
Victims information for people affected by sexual violence (te reo Maori(external link)(external link) Ministry of Justice, NZ
Safe to talk national sexual harm helpline(external link)(external link) free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 0800 044 334 or texting 4334. For people experiencing or carrying out sexual harm.
Shine helpline(external link)(external link) Call 0508 744 633 if you are experiencing violence or if you are worried about a friend, family member, child or anyone who might be living with abuse. Shine uses the NZ Relay(external link)(external link) service for people who are Deaf or hearing or speech impaired, and has access to an interpreting service if you need it. 

If you are a friend or acquaintance of a victim of family violence, you can help by listening and being supportive, ensuring the person and any children are safe and finding out what help is available in the community. It's okay to get involved – you could save a life.

Find out how to reach out yourself and when you should call the police.(external link)(external link)

For concerns about child abuse and neglect contact Oranga Tamariki(external link)(external link) on 0508 326 459.

Video: Whānau violence is not traditional for Māori

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(New Zealand Police, NZ, 2018)

Video: Stan Walker hopes to help others with raw, real biography - “I’ve got one time to say everything” - Personal story: Stan Walker

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In this video Stan Walker talks about his book "Impossible". Stan writes about abuse and addiction, hardship and excess, cancer and discrimination, and growing up in a family where love and violence were horribly entwined.

(Te Karere TVNZ, NZ, 2020)

Video: I Am – I Am a Survivor - I Am Jane Sabine - Neglect: Jane's story of survival 

This video may take a few moments to load.

Watch this video of Jane Sabine, who at age of 3, was the youngest of 5 siblings abandoned by their runaway parents. This video is available to watch online at TVNZ(external link).

(TVNZ, NZ, 2019)

Video: Signs of Domestic Violence

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(NHS, UK, 2019)

Video: Talking about family violence: Women talk about types of abuse - Family violence: a series of videos

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People who’ve been affected by family violence speak about their experiences in a suite of videos

(Ministry of Justice, NZ, 2019)

Breaking Silence: a series

This TV series(external link) about domestic abuse in Aotearoa New Zealand will change the way you think about violence towards women. Made with the support of NZ On Air. (2020 to 2021)

Family violence – it’s not OK(external link)(external link) Information about family violence, what it is and where to get help.
Family violence(external link)(external link) Ministry of Justice, NZ
Domestic violence(external link)(external link) Women's Refuge, NZ
Rape Prevention Education(external link)(external link) Education about rape prevention and support for survivors of sexual abuse
Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga National Network of Stopping Violence Services(external link)(external link) Bicultural national anti-violence organisation
White Ribbon(external link)(external link) White Ribbon Day, 25 November, is the international day to wear a white ribbon to show you don't condone violence towards women
Help for family violence(external link)(external link) NZ Police
Abuse and violence(external link)(external link) Skylight, NZ



Keeping safe feeling safe [PDF, 8.7 MB]  [PDF, 8.7 MB]People First, NZ, 2021
Are you OK? (external link)It's not OK, NZ
About family violence and protection orders(external link) Ministry of Justice, NZ, 2019
Family violence: children get hurt (external link)Brainwave, NZ, 2020
Family violence translations of standard family violence terms(external link) Ministry of Justice, NZ
Aroha in action – a resource for whānau(external link) Di Grennell, NZ
Domestic violence and disabled people(external link) Mental Health Foundation, NZ
Break free – a practical handbook for migrant and refugee youth breaking free from family violence(external link) Shakti Youth, NZ, 2017
Culture – no excuse for abuse(external link)  Shakti, NZ, 2014
Abuse in multiple languages(external link) Health Translations, Australia (Note: This resource is from overseas so some details may be different in New Zealand, eg, phone 111 for emergencies or, if it’s not an emergency, freephone Healthline 0800 611 116)


Positive relationships quiz(external link)


  1. Fanslow J, Robinson E. Violence against Women in NZ – prevalence and health consequences(external link)(external link) NZMJ 2004;117(1206).

Family violence assessment and intervention guideline – child abuse and intimate partner violence(external link) Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora, 2016
Abuse and neglect of children(external link) Starship Children's Hospital, NZ
Domestic Violence Act 1995(external link) Parliamentary Council Office, NZ, 2014
Detecting child abuse in general practice(external link) BPAC, NZ, 2011
NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse(external link) National Centre for Collating and Disseminating Information about Domestic and Family Violence in New Zealand
Short J, Cram F, Roguski M, Smith R, Koziol‐McLain J. Thinking differently – re‐framing family violence responsiveness in the mental health and addictions health care context(external link) Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2019 Aug 23

See our page Youth health for healthcare providers

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Credits: Healthify editorial team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Louise Morgan, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Centre for Psychology, Massey University, Auckland

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