Information for specialist family violence and sexual violence services

Click here to go to our other COVID-19 pages

Last updated 23 August 2021

Services have many things to think about during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have provided some key information below. We continue to update this page so please check back. To check what's been added recently, see Latest updates

Keeping your employees and the people you work with safe from COVID-19

Using technology to reduce face-to-face contact

Key messages for people experiencing or using violence

Safety considerations for victim/survivors

Adapting work with perpetrators

Advocate wellbeing

Further reading


Keeping your employees and the people you work with safe from COVID-19

MSD has created a webpage that has guidance and information for all social services (see previous guidance including information for each alert level) related to COVID-19. This information is regularly updated.

If you have questions about hygiene or personal protective equipment (PPE), the Ministry of Health is regularly updating their advice. See their information on Personal protective equipment use for non-health workers (11 September 2020).

The Ministry of Health has published COVID-19: General cleaning and disinfection advice (7 August 2020). This guidance is for general cleaning and disinfection advice for indoor and outdoor areas that are accessed by the public. 

The Ministry of Health updated advice on the use of face masks as part of the response to COVID-19. See their page on COVID-19: Use of masks in the community for more information - this page is regularly updated. The official government website has information for the general public on masks including what type of mask to use, when to wear masks at different alert levels and how to wear a face mask.

Oranga Tamariki has published information about their practices on their Practice Centre Website which provides helpful protocols and advice for meeting the COVID-19 restrictions.

During a regional resurgence, travel into or out of an affected region may be limited with a COVID-19 Alert Level Boundary. Services provided under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, and other social services provided to support persons to maintain critical well-being, including crisis support for people who are unsafe or homeless, may be able to use the Online Business Travel Register for travel across Alert Level boundaries. For more information see the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment information on COVID-19: Business travel across Alert Level Boundaries. MSD describes travel across Alert Level boundaries for social service organisations in this newsletter (15 February 2021).

If you are a social services organisation that receives support or funding from a government agency and you need help with a business continuity plan or resourcing PPE, email:

On 22 August 2021 the government announced that childcare for workers of Alert Level 4 businesses or services will again be available.

Additional information and guidance:


Using technology safely to reduce face-to-face contact

TOAH-NNEST have produced remote therapy guidelines for practitioners offering therapeutic counselling to victim/survivors of sexual and domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidelines highlight the importance of keeping yourself safe, ensuring ethical practice and the maintenance of boundaries, and suggestions for platforms to use.

TOAH-NNEST has posted video recordings from two webinars related to using technology:

When using devices for service delivery use these tips for safety and privacy:

  • Use agency-owned devices and agency accounts, not personal ones
  • Facebook Messenger, Facetime and similar apps are not recommended for privacy reasons
  • Be cautious with apps. Only download those necessary for work. Limit apps’ access to device data to avoid clients’ information being accessible.
  • Only download apps from official stores (Google Play & Apple App Store)
  • Regularly update software and apps to prevent security issues
  • Limit automatic connections such as Wifi & Bluetooth
  • Avoid public Wifi connections if you can, especially when uploading files and using sensitive information

These US resources provide more advice about using technology from the National Network to End Domestic Violence. This includes messaging and video conferencing services.

  • Video Conferencing & Digital Communication Platforms: Comparison Chart
  • Using Technology to Communicate with Survivors During a Public Health Crisis
  • How to Operate as a Remote Workplace During a Public Health Crisis

Community Research can help community groups learn how to run webinars. Webinars are for large group discussions, not individual support or group support.

It is important to review rapid changes made to services including a changes that rely on technology. These changes may have created new ways of working, but they may also have introduced new barriers or risks to safety for victims/survivors. The US-based National Network to End Domestic Violence encourages re-assessing these decisions to adopt new technology. They have created a Digital Services Toolkit which has a number of resources that can help. 

Key questions to ask are whether the changes still fit and if the changes effectively address safety for victims. These articles from Australia address how to document the changes and how to assess rapid service changes


Key messages for people experiencing or using violence

It's important that people know family and sexual violence services are still open and how to get help.

If you use social media or have a website, tell people you are still open and how to contact you.

You can also share this webpage listing national family and sexual violence helplines that are open.

Remind victim/survivors to look for this icon at the bottom of websites. The icon opens the website. When you open the website by clicking on the icon, it won't appear in an internet browser history. It has information on getting help.


Safety considerations for victim/survivors

A perpetrator's violence can change and become worse during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic. These international resources talk about how the violence can change and how you can respond. 

Isolation, social marginalisation and restrictions from the COVID-19 response can increase the risk of sexual violence and impact access to services and support for victims/survivors. This infographic from the Canadian Learning Network at the Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children highlights the ways that COVID-19 may impact sexual violence. In addition victims/survivors of sexual violence may experience trauma in relation to the public health measures to control COVID-19. This article from Australian media ABC Radio highlights how wearing face masks to control COVID-19 can trigger trauma for sexual violence victims/survivors. 

The Government website states there are exemptions for people who cannot wear a mask, including "you have a physical or mental health illness or condition or disability that makes wearing a face covering unsuitable." It also states that an exemption card is available for people who are not able to wear masks. The card is not required but may be helpful in places where masks are required. People can ask for an exemption card by calling Healthline on 0800 358 5453.


Adapting work with perpetrators

Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga - National Network of Family Violence Services is developing practice-based information. They are happy to share this with other family and sexual violence services – email

For considerations in using technology to facilitate groups with men see this brief summary: Initial Lessons Learned from using Video Conferencing Software to deliver Interventions for Men using Violence in Intimate Relationships (2020) by Rosanna Bellini and Nicole Westmarland.

When accessing the resources below, remember that some countries do not have the same restrictions in place as Aotearoa New Zealand.


Advocate wellbeing

Advocates may experience increased personal, community and professional responsibilities and pressures from the impacts of COVID-19. The US-based National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV) has published #Care4Advocates: COVID-19 Resources to Support Advocates’ Well-being. This resource has links to articles, toolkits and webinar recordings focused on supporting advocate wellbeing.

The US-based Mary Hoch Center for Reconciliation has published a brief Self-Care Guide for Change-makers and Peacebuilders during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It outlines basic recommendations for change-makers and peacebuilders on how to take care of yourself and your household during the pandemic. 

Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre in partnership with Domestic Violence Victoria and the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria have published Best Practice Guidelines: Supporting the Wellbeing of Family Violence Workers During Times of Emergency and Crisis (May 2021) based on research with service provider experiences.


Further reading

Researchers in Australia, the US and the UK have begun to document the impacts to staff of family violence and sexual violence organisations. The following reports and articles make recommendations to support and retain staff in the context of COVID-19 and future emergencies:

The VAWG Helpdesk Research Report Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Violence against Women and Girls (UK Aid, 16 March 2020) discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic might impact on violence against women and girls (VAWG). It draws on emerging global evidence from the current COVID-19 outbreak, and previous epidemics.

States must combat domestic violence in the context of COVID-19 lockdowns – UN rights expert, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, 27 March 2020

Also see our FAQ part 1: Understanding the impacts of COVID-19 and FAQ part 2: Addressing the impacts of COVID-19.


Click here to go to our other COVID-19 pages

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