Victims of family harm are bracing for a spike in violence over the Christmas period and with it, a rise in animal abuse.
Police say they are attending significantly more incidents of family violence already this year due to the impact of Covid-19, and they are worried about what the holiday season will bring.
Auckland Police say family harm is up 18 percent in the last 12 months, with officers attending 47,604 episodes, up from 40,244. They often see a spike from Boxing Day, with victims waiting until Christmas is over to call for help.
“For many families, Christmas is not a happy or festive time of year,” Detective Inspector Kelly Farrant, from Waitematā’s Whāngaia Nga Pa Harakeke, says. “The financial stress of Christmas can have a major impact on people’s wellbeing.
“Additional family visiting, children and others home from school or work, increased alcohol consumption and spending, potentially overlaid by any impacts or concerns around Covid, and it’s possible we will see an even greater increase as we look towards 2021. And it’s not just people affected – pets can bear the brunt of violence, too.”
To help victims escape, New Zealand’s first shelter caring for pets affected by family violence is being built locally.
“Pet Refuge will be a temporary safe haven for pets while their owners find a violence-free home,” founder Julie Chapman says. “We know that victims are staying in dangerous relationships because they can’t take their pets with them to a safe house, and they fear they will be harmed if they leave them behind. Our shelter will care for their pets until they can be reunited, and pets will be transported from around the country to the shelter.”
The charity has launched a Christmas appeal to fund running costs, so that when the shelter build is finished it can open its doors immediately. It needs to raise $200,000 for food, bedding and blankets, toys and exercise equipment, medication, transport, and paying vets, expert animal carers, case workers and support staff.
“More than 100 victims have already reached out to us so we can’t open our doors soon enough – but we need the public to help us do that,” Julie says.
Animals are often the forgotten victims in a family violence situation but are also some of the most helpless.
To donate visit petrefuge.org.nz or call 09 975 0850. Victims needing help should call Women’s Refuge: 0800 Refuge or 0800 733 843. For men who feel they are going to harm a loved one call 0800 HEY BRO or 0800 439 276. Police are urging the public to contact them if they think someone is at risk.