Abuse and safety

Abuse is defined as any action that intentionally harms or injures another person. Abuse is never okay.

On this page, you can find the following information:

Key points

  1. Abuse can happen to anyone of any age or gender and from any walk of life.
  2. No matter what your situation, you deserve to live without pain and fear.
  3. Whether you’re the abused, the abuser or a concerned friend or family member, there is help available. It’s not okay to abuse someone, but it is okay to ask for help.
  4. Learning about the different types of abuse and what you can do to stop or prevent abuse can make a difference in your own or someone else’s life.
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It is never okay for anyone to use violence to hurt or control you. 

  • Nobody has the right to assault another person.
  • Nobody is allowed to have sexual contact with another person without permission.
  • Nobody has the right to use intimidation, threats or mind games to gain power over another person.

What are the different types of abuse?

Abuse can be physical, sexual, psychological, financial or spiritual. Neglect is also a form of abuse.

Physical abuse includes:

  • hitting and punching
  • biting, pushing, choking or pulling your hair
  • making you drink or take drugs when you don't want to
  • using or threatening to use weapons.

Sexual abuse includes:

  • forcing you to have sex or do other sexual acts you don't want to do
  • touching you in a way you don't want
  • frequently accusing you of sleeping with other people
  • forcing you to watch porn or other sexual material against your will.

Psychological abuse includes:

  • making you feel like everything you do is wrong
  • constantly criticising you or your friends
  • humiliating you in front of your friends
  • using unsafe driving to frighten you
  • damaging property/walls/possessions to scare you
  • stopping you from seeing friends and family so you feel isolated and alone
  • blaming everything on you
  • threatening to take the children away or hurt them
  • stalking, following or checking up on you
  • harming pets to punish you
  • making you scared of what might happen next.

Financial abuse includes:

  • taking your money or property
  • running up debts in your name
  • misusing power of attorney
  • pressuring you into paying money for things. 

Spiritual abuse (attacks to your wairua or spirit) includes:

  • belittling your whakapapa, beliefs, traditions or culture
  • not allowing you to participate in church, temple or other religious activities
  • stopping you from expressing your spiritual or religious beliefs
  • manipulating or coercing you to hold certain beliefs or carry out religious practices against your will
  • inappropriately using spiritual or religious beliefs and practices to justify other types of abuse and violence.  

Neglect includes:

  • not providing enough food, clothing or warmth
  • leaving dependents alone or with someone who is unsafe
  • not providing comfort, attention and love
  • not providing appropriate or necessary medical treatment.

What is family violence?

Family violence is a crime

It is not a private matter. It is one of New Zealand’s most serious social issues. Elder abuse is also a significant concern.

  • Between 33–39% of New Zealand women experience physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Family violence is one of the leading causes of injury and death to women.
  • It also leads to short and long-term health problems such as mental illness, and problems with sexual and reproductive health. 
  • Children who live in a home where there is violence are significantly more at risk of being the victims of physical, sexual and psychological abuse and neglect than other children.

Family violence can be carried out by anyone you are in a domestic or close relationship with. They don't have to be living with you. It could be a:

  • partner or ex-partner
  • carer
  • friend
  • flatmate or family member.

Family violence is never your fault

If you are a victim of family violence or in a relationship that makes you scared about your own or anyone else's safety, seek help as soon as possible. You have the right to be safe.

If you're unsure whether your relationship is abusive or not, you can take this positive relationship quiz.

Where to get immediate help if you are being abused

  • If you are in immediate danger, call the Police on 111. They will respond straight away.

National helplines

  • Are You OK: Phone 0800‑456‑450 (9.00 am to 11.00 pm).
  • Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children): For immediate concerns about the safety of children, when a child's behaviour is putting the safety of family members at risk, uncertainty about what to do next, or for advice phone 0508-326-459 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
  • Shakti: Help for migrant and refugee women of Asian, African, and Middle Eastern origin who are victims of violence and abuse phone 0800‑742‑584.
  • Shine: Advocacy and refuges for victims of domestic abuse phone 0508-744-633 (9.00 am to 11.00 pm, 7 days).
  • Women's Refuge: Provides education programmes, support services, information, and safe housing to women, young people and children experiencing abuse, crisis line phone 0800‑733‑843.
  • Victim's information: A government service that provides information about local support services and the justice system to anyone affected by crime, phone 0800‑650‑654.
  • Victim support: Emotional and practical support, information, referral to other support services, and advocacy for the rights of victims, phone 0800‑842‑846. 

Wellington region

  • Te Whare Tiaki Wāhine Refuge (Porirua)
  • Kōkiri Marae Māori Women's Refuge: A kaupapa-Māori support and advocacy service for wahine and tamariki living in the Hutt Valley phone 0800-733-843 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

For longer-term and ongoing protection from a violent person, you can apply for an order:

  • a Police safety order – this is to protect people at risk from violence, harassment or intimidation for up to 5 days, but is usually for just a day or two
  • protection order – this is longer-term protection from an abuser if you are in a domestic relationship with them
  • restraining order if you are not in a relationship with the person abusing you
  • if children are involved you can also apply for an urgent parenting order (without notice). 

Where to get other support if you are being abused

Family violence – where to get help Ministry of Justice, NZ
Victims information for people affected by sexual violence (English) Ministry of Justice, NZ
Victims information for people affected by sexual violence (te reo Maori Ministry of Justice, NZ
Safe to talk national sexual harm helpline free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 0800 044 334 or texting 4334. For people experiencing or carrying out sexual harm.
Shine helpline Call 0508 744 633 if you are experiencing violence or if you are worried about a friend, family member, child or anyone who might be living with abuse. Shine uses the NZ Relay service for people who are Deaf or hearing or speech impaired, and has access to an interpreting service if you need it. 

What do I do if I know someone is being abused?

If you are a friend or acquaintance of a victim of family violence, you can help by listening and being supportive, ensuring the person and any children are safe and finding out what help is available in the community. It's okay to get involved – you could save a life. Find out how to reach out yourself and when you should call the police.

For concerns about child abuse and neglect contact Oranga Tamariki on 0508 326 459.

Learn more

Family violence – it’s not OK Information about family violence, what it is and where to get help.
Family violence Ministry of Justice, NZ
Domestic violence Women's Refuge, NZ
Rape Prevention Education Education about rape prevention and support for survivors of sexual abuse
Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga National Network of Stopping Violence Services Bicultural national anti-violence organisation
White Ribbon White Ribbon Day, 25 November, is the international day to wear a white ribbon to show you don't condone violence towards women
Help for family violence NZ Police
Abuse and violence Skylight, NZ
0800 Hey Bro This 24/7 number is for men who feel they’re going to harm a loved one or whānau member


  1. Fanslow J, Robinson E. Violence against Women in NZ – prevalence and health consequences NZMJ 2004;117(1206).
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Louise Morgan, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Centre for Psychology, Massey University, Auckland Last reviewed: 24 Jul 2020