How to help

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 Last updated 21 August 2021


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During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to check-in on friends and family to see if they are OK. For some people home or their bubble may not be a safe place. They may live with a person who uses violence or abuse. Violence in the home can get worse during an emergency like COVID-19. 

Many people will know someone who is being abused by a partner or family member, even though they may not call it family violence or sexual violence.  

If you are concerned for the safety of someone, you can call 111 at any time. Helplines are essential services. You can call them any time. See the list below.

If a person is not safe at home or in their bubble at any Alert Level, it is ok to leave and ask for help.

If you are concerned about someone, support them by keeping in touch. Some people may find it difficult to talk while in isolation if the abusive person is monitoring their devices. You can: 

  • Agree on a ‘code word’ with your friend. If they message you that word, you can call the police and ask them to check on the person. 
  • Ask if they have the things they need such as food, medication, and sanitary items. Offer to help get them. Some abusive people will withhold these items. 
  • Help them feel less isolated. Set up regular times to talk to you and others. 
  • Encourage them to get in touch with a helpline if they feel unsafe. 
  • Make sure they have the latest information about the Alert Levels and what they can do.

These Tips for helping a friend experiencing domestic abuse during COVID-19 can be helpful if the person is isolating or in quarantine. This handout is from the US-based National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Many people who use violence seek help to stop or change their behaviour. They might not say that they want to stop being violent, but they might ask for your help with loneliness, isolation, worries about their behaviour or to help manage their stress levels. Talk to them and listen, but be careful that you don’t support or excuse their violent behaviour. Encourage them to seek help from the  agencies below.  For more information see our information for people using abuse


Where to get help? 

You or the person you are worried about can call the helpline for advice. These helplines are available during all Alert Levels.

Women's Refuge notes that women abused by partners are more at risk during the COVID-19 outbreak. 


For employers

Even though you may be working remotely you will have regular contact with employees. You can check-in with your employees to see if they are safe or need support. You can also help support their safety. Before you reach out to employees see the information from Shine and DVFREE about Advice to NZ Employers during lockdown. Employers can also call Shine for advice on 0508 744 633. 

Shine is offering their DVFREE Workplace ‘First Responder’ training in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch or online if you are based more than 60km from one of these city centres. This trains an employee to be able to respond if a staff member in your company is experiencing violence or abuse. 

Our Watch, based in Australia, has identified actions that employers can take to promote gender equality in the workplace. See their two-page brief Promoting gender equality as you respond to the coronavirus pandemic (2020).

For more information about what you can do in your workplace see this brief The COVID-19 shadow pandemic: Domestic violence in the world of work: A call to action for the private sector from UN Women (2020).


More information

See these websites (not COVID-19 specific) for informationon how to help:

He Ara Mataora: Tools to stop violence - see information for community allies

The It's Not OK Campaign - see I want to help

E Tū Whānau - a movement for positive change developed by Māori for Māori

Pasefika Proud - addresses violence in Pacific families, delivered and led by Pacific peoples

Netsafe - provides a free and confidential service for people of all ages in New Zealand who are experiencing an online incident or worried about someone else

Insight Exchange (Australia) has published short guides to help family and friends, workplaces, businesses, faith communities and tertiary education organisations think about how to respond to people experiencing domestic and family violence.


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