If you are thinking about leaving an abusive partner it is important to keep yourself and your children safe and ensure that you have support from friends, family or support services like Central Lakes Family Services.
Where possible it is best to plan ahead and think about both short and long term safety plans to keep yourself and your children safe after separation.
In the event that you are being assaulted:
Leave if you can – Be aware of all exits, is there anything blocking your escape route
If possible keep a cell phone on you
Are you leaving on foot and if so where are you going? If you are going to a neighbour’s house, are they aware that they are part of your safety plan? It is best to organise this in advance in conjunction with your neighbour so they know what to expect and how they can assist.
If you are leaving by car, is there a spare car key handy? Is there petrol in the car and have you parked your vehicle ready for a fast getaway?
Leave a spare set of clothing with a family member, neighbour or friend for yourself and your children.
Keep all important documents (passports, birth certificates, etc), cash, bank cards, medications together and place them where you can get them quickly or leave them with a “safe” person.
If you get stuck in the house stay away from high risk areas such as the kitchen, stairs and garage and keep away from weapons. If there are children in the house, have a code word you can say to them so they know that help is needed. Depending on their age they could:
Call 111 for help. Teach your children what to tell the operator. “My name is Jane. My address is 15 Mountain Rd. My Mum is getting hurt and needs help now”.
Run to a neighbour for help
Get to a safe place outside the house to hide
Use judgement and intuition. When the situation is very serious you may have to do what the attacker wants until things calm down. Then be on the alert for your chance to escape and get help.
Preparation for separation
Tell only who needs to know like trusted friends or support workers about your plans.
Arrange transport in advance and know where you’ll go.
Tell children only what they need to know, when they need to know it. Wait until plans are well advanced before talking to them. They don’t need the stress of keeping a difficult secret, and younger children often are just not able to keep secrets.
Gather documents. Birth certificates, marriage certificate, copies of Protection Orders, custody papers, passports, any identification papers, driver’s licence, insurance policies, Work and Income documents, IRD number, bank account details and statements, cheque book, cash cards, immigration documentation, medical and legal records, etc.
Keep record of any injuries. Ask your doctor to do this on your patient records.
Long term safety after separation
You may want to apply for a Protection Order, discuss this with your support worker or your lawyer.
Teach your children what to do if your ex-partner makes contact with them unexpectedly, rules about checking first before opening the door, coming inside or going to neighbours if he/she comes to the house, telling a teacher if they are approached at school, call 111 if taken by ex-partner.
Keep your community informed. Tell other adults who take care of your children who has permission to pick them up, and who does not have permission. Warn them if you think your ex-partner may try to take the children.
Use different shops and banks to those you used when you lived with your ex-partner.
Strengthen your home security. Change your locks and if possible get bolt locks, security chains etc and make sure children know to use the security features at all times. Consider installing an outside lighting system that lights up when a person comes near your house at night. Plan for extra safety between leaving your car and entering your home, e.g. an automatic garage door opener, safety lighting, etc
Tell neighbours that your partner does not live with you and ask them to call the Police if she/he is seen near your house, or if they hear an assault occurring.
Tell your employer that you have a Protection Order, or that you do not want your ex-partner to have access to you. If your car is parked in an isolated place have someone walk with you.
Telephone the Police if your ex-partner breaches the Protection Order. Contact your lawyer and Central Lakes Family Services. If the Police do not help, contact Central Lakes Family Services or your lawyer for assistance.
Install ‘Caller ID’ on your phone and ask for an unlisted number. Make sure that emergency services have access to your phone number.
Contact Elections NZ on 0800 367 656 or go to www.elections.org.nz and ask for your name and address to be excluded from the published electoral roll.
Use social media with caution to hide all personal information that might give away where you live and anything about you that you wish to keep private from your ex-partner. You also need to make sure that any of your ‘Friends’ on social media know to not disclose anything about where you live, etc on social media.
Talk to your children about social media. Depending on their ages and maturity level, it may be wise to restrict their access to any social media, or make sure they understand to never give out their personal details on social media.
ARE YOU IN DANGER
IF YOU, OR YOUR CHILDREN ARE IN IMMEDIATE DANGER, PHONE 111 AND ASK FOR THE POLICE.
Many victims normalise the violence or abuse in their lives as it has become such a regular occurrence. You may actually be at risk of being seriously injured or killed! Have a look at these risk factors which at Central Lakes Family Services would be taken most seriously.
Has your partner ever…
Used threats to harm, or kill yourself or a member of your family?
Tried to strangle you (had his/her hands around your throat)?
Forced you to have sex or other sexual acts?
Used a weapon against you, or threatened to?
Threatened to commit suicide if you leave him/her?
Become violent towards you whilst under the influence of alcohol or other substances?
Assaulted you whilst pregnant?
Used unhealthy controlling behaviours eg stalking you, checking your whereabouts constantly, checking your phone/phone messages, being possessive and jealous, and isolating you from friends and family?
Abused, hurt or killed animals, or pets?
Used threats of suicide?
Have a history of breaching court orders, or bail conditions?
If you are experiencing any of the above issues, and/or the violence is escalating, you (and your children) may be in serious danger of being killed or seriously injured.
Another warning sign is if an ex-partner is unable to accept your separation and is using any of the behaviours listed above. Leaving is usually the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship!
If you contact Central Lakes Family Services on 0508 440 255 you will be able to discuss your situation safely with an experienced staff member who can help you look at the options available to you. We can assist you to make a safety plan, plan ahead if you wish to leave a relationship, or apply for a Protection Order if this is what you wish to do. You and your children have the right to be safe!
A Protection Order is a legal Order designed to protect you and your children from further violence. A Judge can make a Protection Order if they are satisfied there has been domestic violence. The Judge also needs to be sure that the Order will work to protect you, and any children that usually live with you, from a violent person.
Under the NZ Domestic Violence Act 1995 “Domestic violence” includes:
• physical abuse, such as punching, choking, kicking or throwing things
• sexual abuse, including saying sexual things, forcing the other person to look at pornography, or any kind of unwanted sexual contact
• psychological abuse, including:
• damaging property
• making threats (including over the internet or in text messages)
• financial or economic abuse, such as restricting a person’s access to bank accounts or other financial resources, or restricting their job opportunities or access to education.
How does a Protection Order work?
The person who applies for a Protection Order is called the ‘applicant’. The Protection Order protects the applicant and any children who live with them. When a child turns 17, they remain protected by the Protection Order if they live with the person who applied for it. The person who is being violent is called the ‘respondent’. If the respondent is being violent towards other people, like a new partner, older children or a flatmate, the Order can protect them too. The applicant must ask for these people to be protected in the Order. The Protection Order will protect the applicant and other people named on the Order from the respondent. If the respondent encourages other people to be violent towards the applicant, the Protection Order will protect you against those people as well. Those people are called associated respondents.
Applying for a Protection Order
To apply you’ll need to fill out an application form, which you are strongly advised to do with the help of a lawyer. Your lawyer will write down your account of what’s happened and why you need a Protection Order in a sworn statement (affidavit). At the same time you can also apply for any other court orders you need, such as a Property Order or Parenting Order. The application form and the statement will then be given to the Family Court. If it’s urgent, the Family Court can make a temporary Protection Order, usually on the same day. This is made without notifying the violent person (the respondent), but the respondent can ask to be heard before a final Order is issued. If the application is not urgent, the respondent will be served with the application (on notice) and will have the chance to defend it. The Family Court Judge will then listen to the evidence from both sides and decide if a final Protection Order should be issued.
How long is a Protection Order for?
When an Order is made before the respondent is given notice, it is temporary and runs for three months. If the respondent does not defend it, the Order will automatically become final after the three months are up and will stay in force permanently. The applicant can choose at any time to ask the Court to cancel the Order. If the respondent objects to the Order and defends it, a hearing date will be set by the Court and the applicant will be told about it. The Court will then consider both sides.
What does the Protection Order say?
Family Court Protection Orders have standard conditions but they are also flexible enough to deal with individual situations. Some of the conditions the respondent must follow are listed below. Non-violence conditions, the respondent:
• must not physically, psychologically or sexually abuse or threaten the applicant or their children
• must not damage or threaten to damage the applicant’s property
• must not encourage anyone else to physically, sexually or psychologically abuse or threaten the applicant or their children.
In most cases, the respondent will be required to attend a Court-appointed ‘Non- Violence’ programme to help them live without violence. Central Lakes Family Services runs a court approved Non Violence programme for respondents and applicants and their children are able to access Safety Programmes through too – all programmes are free of charge to the participants.
Central Lakes Family Servicescan provide information and advice to those who are concerned about a friend or family member. Someone is available on our duty phone from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, to listen and respond to your concerns with experienced and practical advice.
Some immediate ways you can help:
ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THEY ARE IN A VERY DIFFICULT AND SCARY SITUATION, BE SUPPORTIVE AND LISTEN.
Let them know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there. It may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. Let them know that you are available to help whenever they may need it. What they need most is someone who will believe and listen.
Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize their decisions or try to make them feel guilty. This may isolate them even more and they will need your support even more during those times.
IF THEY END THE RELATIONSHIP, CONTINUE TO BE SUPPORTIVE OF THEM.
Even though the relationship was abusive, your friend or family member may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. They will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO PARTICIPATE IN ACTIVITIES OUTSIDE OF THE RELATIONSHIP WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY.
Support is critical and the more they feel supported by people who care for them, the easier it will be for them to take the steps necessary to get and stay safe away from their abusive partner.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO REACH OUT TO PEOPLE WHO CAN PROVIDE HELP AND GUIDANCE.
Encourage them to call Central Lakes Family Services 0508 440 255. Offer to come with them to a meeting with one of our experienced staff. If they wish to go to the police, court or lawyer’s office, offer to go along for moral support.
REMEMBER THAT THIS IS THEIR JOURNEY.
It is difficult to see someone you care about experiencing family violence. Ultimately they are the one who has to make the decisions about what they want to do. It’s important for you to support them no matter what they decide, and help them find a way to seek help when they are ready
You can ask the Family Court to make a number of decisions about how you care for your children. How it does this depends on what you want it to do:
We need the court to make a decision because we can’t agree – standard track:
If you can’t agree, you can ask the court to make Orders about how you’ll care for your children. The court can also make sure its Orders are followed (enforce an Order), or it can change (vary) or end (discharge) an Order. In most cases when you can’t agree you’ll most likely to need to have taken part in Parenting Through Separation and Family Dispute Resolution before applying to the Family Court.
We’ve agreed but want the court to enforce our agreement – simple track:
If you’ve agreed, the Family Court can make your private agreement a Consent Order. You may want to do this so the Family Court can make sure you both do what you’ve agreed by enforcing the Order.
I need urgent help from the court – without notice track:
If you need an urgent decision from the Family Court you can ask for it without notice. You would do this if you or your children are at risk, or if your children might be taken overseas without your agreement, in the near future.
Appearing in court:
If your case is on the standard or simple tracks you may need to do some things in the Family Court without a lawyer. Help on understanding the court process is available in Settling a dispute about children in court at http://www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice
All the information you require is available on the Ministry of Justice, Family Justice website www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice and it has some useful walk through steps, and brochures to explain the process and the things you need to do to apply for, or vary, a Parenting Order. Information on Protection Orders is also available on this website for anyone experiencing family violence.
Domestic abuse includes emotional, psychological and sexual violence as well as physical violence. It includes any sort of intimidating or threatening behaviour that creates fear for the victim. It also includes any behaviour that helps one person maintain power and control over another within an intimate or family relationship. Central Lakes Family Services has non-violence programmes available for those directed to complete one in the Queenstown, Wanaka and Central Otago regions.
If you have been, or are, using violence and abusive behaviour on your partner or others in your family, we can support you to make a positive change. It can be hard to change old habits and behaviours and it is really important to have support to do this. You need others around you who can assist you to learn and use new tools and skills for safer, healthy relationships, and who aren’t afraid to challenge the old and unhelpful behaviours. Asking for help is often difficult and Central Lakes Family Services staff understand this and congratulate your commitment to change. If change is to be maintained there needs to be a genuine willingness to accept responsibility for your own behaviour, and to talk openly and honestly about your experiences to your non-violence programme facilitator and your support network.
The non-violence programme is for individuals who have abused their partner, children or family members and are motivated to make a positive change. It provides different alternatives to using violence: education and awareness of the impact of their behaviour on themselves, their partner and their children; and helps them develop the insight and skills they need to maintain respectful, non-violent relationships. The programme begins with a one on one assessment and then continues with weekly sessions for 10 – 15 weeks.
It is important to understand however that challenging and changing ingrained belief systems can be very difficult and completing a non-violence programme is sometimes not enough to maintain permanent change.