COVID-19 restrictions impact family violence and wellbeing, empowered communities key to supporting safety at home

During the 2020 national lockdown, reports of family violence increased considerably, but the New Zealand Police and advocacy groups were concerned that this was still under-reported. Women, children, rangatahi Māori, disabled people and rainbow youth were particularly affected. This is according to today’s Te Hiringa Mahara – the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission report, COVID-19 and safety in the home [PDF, 248 KB].

“There were increased reports of violence and more severe violence and lockdowns made it harder for people at risk to seek help,” says Te Hiringa Mahara Chief Executive Karen Orsborn.

More than 20% of young people felt unsafe in their bubble at least some of the time. Young people identifying as rainbow, Māori, Pacific or having a disability were even more likely to report feeling unsafe within their bubbles.  

“In addition, while the digital divide made accessing help difficult for some communities, digital technology also allowed online violence and abuse to be brought directly into people’s homes. While social media was useful to mitigate physical isolation and enhance social connectedness, experiences of digital harm and violence skyrocketed during the lockdowns.”

On a positive note, the increased risk of family violence was recognised and acted upon from the start of the pandemic by the government, and by Māori and community organisations and initiatives.

“Māori leadership in keeping people safe during COVID-19 was evident across a broad range of community-based organisations, including Whānau Ora providers, women’s refuges, and Māori wardens.

“However, while government and community responses were and are valuable, more should be done to empower communities, provide a range of safe accessible supports, and monitor and research family and sexual violence.”