Abused women in New Zealand’s migrant and refugee communities are running out of support as domestic violence continues to rise.
Women’s Refuge is reporting a 12 per cent increase in domestic violence in New Zealand in the year ending June 2011.
But Shakti Asian Women’s Centre is still hard-pressed to finance services such as advocacy, education programmes and safe houses throughout the country.
The actual figures on domestic violence are likely to be even higher, says Constable Helen Chiell, of Auckland Police’s Family Violence Division.
“[Domestic violence] is hugely under-reported, particularly in those communities,” she says.
In 2010 and 2011, Shakti had an average of 500 calls a month to its 24-hour crisis line.
Shakti’s funding officer, Temi Allainson, says the majority of these were domestic violence-related.
“When pockets are leaner, people are meaner,” she said, referring to the current economic climate as one cause for the rise in violence.
“Not just in ethnic communities, but across the board.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Social Development says decisions on increasing funding for Shakti have not yet been announced.
The Community Response Fund, which provides for critical social services that are experiencing increased demand, has just closed its latest funding round and announcements are pending.
In Auckland, Shakti Asian Women’s Centre works with a team of six lawyers funded through legal aid.
Social workers accompany victims to hearings, to interpret and guide the victim’s questions.
“Often, ethnic women who are facing both language barriers and a foreign legal system become passive,” says Shakti coordinator Crystal Shreshta, a recent law school graduate.
Shakti volunteer Valonia de Souza says that with no support networks, recent immigrants can be particularly vulnerable when confronted with domestic violence.
“Often they are not aware of their options, and are isolated, scared,” de Souza told Te Waha Nui at a fundraising stall in Ponsonby.
“Husbands can threaten to withdraw visas [if the woman leaves], and divorce is a shame in many ethnic communities.”
“Once married, you are done with your parental family . . . you just have your husband’s family. You are told to deal with it.”
Shakti is largely run by volunteers who must each be able to speak English as well as a language from Africa, Asia, or the Middle East.
Shakti’s 24-hour crisis line can be reached by calling 0800 742 584, and donations can be arranged through the Shakti office on 09 9292240.