Christmas is a stressful time for all, with arguments between many family members. Arguing that turns physical, however, is called domestic violence. The Domestic Violence Act 1995 outlaws violence against husbands and/or wives, gay or lesbian partners, children, and members of immediate family. It protects anyone who lives in a relationship with others that is more than a flatting situation. Domestic violence does not just have to be physical, it can be emotional, psychological or sexual. These different forms of domestic violence often occur together (but can occur just once) to create a pattern of abuse that can have long term effects and be extremely damaging to the victim.
What can be done about it?
Often the first yet most difficult decision to make when domestic violence occurs is to remove yourself and any vulnerable children. This can be very difficult, as domestic violence can make a person feel useless, unworthy, and alone. Domestic Violence is illegal in New Zealand; no one is expected to live with any form of abuse. There are many organisations that can help people suffering from domestic violence. The help offered ranges from general advice to providing protected, safe places to stay. If you need confidential advice about who to turn to, please contact the police, women’s refuge, or your local community law centre. There is free help available for everyone in New Zealand, regardless or your age, marital status, religion, sexual orientation or immigration status.
You are entitled to continuing protection from the person who committed the violence, even if you are no longer living with them. If there is a real threat or fear of violence, you can apply for a protection order through the family court; protection orders exist to protect yourself and your family from violence. If you feel you are in immediate danger, you can apply for and have a protection order approved in the same day. The other side will have a chance to defend themselves at a later date. Protection orders protect any children who usually or regularly live with the person applying, although in some circumstances a judge may still allow children to have contact with the other party.
What about our stuff?
The division of relationship property in New Zealand is based on how long the relationship has lasted: if the relationship has been for less than 3 years, everyone gets back what they put in. If the relationship has survived for more than three years, each side gets half of the relationship property. The law as to relationship property is not changed by perpetration of domestic violence or who decides to end the relationship. The person with the ongoing care of any children may be awarded more relationship property.
If you or anyone you know is subject to domestic violence, please speak to someone that can help. Even if you suspect that domestic violence is occurring but have no proof, just speaking to the person involved can help. Women’s refuge is available on 0800 REFUGE for immediate help, and the Community Law Centre is available at 14 Market Street Blenheim, or 0800 266 529 for free, confidential advice on your rights, and where to turn for help.