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Printed: 31/05/2020
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Last updated: 19/07/2019

Family violence

The emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing of te tamaiti can be affected when they’re exposed to family violence.

What is family violence

Family violence is defined under section 9 of the Family Violence Act 2018 as violence inflicted by any person against another person who they are or have been in a family/whānau relationship with.

Violence within family/whānau is defined as:

  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • psychological abuse.

It includes:

  • dowry-related violence arising from concerns about gifts, goods, money property or other benefit given to or received by a party to a marriage proposal
  • violence against a person, including patterns of behaviour that are made up of a number of acts that are all or any of physical abuse, sexual abuse and psychological abuse that may be coercive or controlling and cumulatively causes the person harm
  • psychological abuse of tamariki that occurs if a tamaiti sees or hears the physical, sexual or psychological abuse of a person that te tamaiti has a family/whānau relationship with or is at real risk of seeing that abuse occurring.

Meaning of family violence ⁠— section 9 of Family Violence Act 2018

Emotional abuse

Physical abuse

Sexual abuse

A family/whānau relationship is defined as a spouse or partner, family/whānau member or household member sharing a close personal relationship.

Meaning of family relationship ⁠— section 12 of Family Violence Act 2018

A family/whānau member is defined as being related to another person by blood or through:

  • marriage
  • civil union
  • de facto relationship
  • adoption
  • being a member of the person's family/whānau or other culturally recognised family group.

Abuse of tamariki and rangatahi

Abuse of tamariki and rangatahi is family violence. Tamariki and rangatahi who live in a home where there’s violence are known to be significantly more at risk of being the victims of physical, sexual and psychological abuse and neglect than any other tamariki or rangatahi.

Cumulative harm

Emotional abuse

While an instance of family violence may not appear to present a direct or immediate threat to te tamaiti, section 11(2) of the Family Violence Act 2018 states that a person psychologically abuses a tamaiti if that person:

  • causes or allows te tamaiti to see or hear physical, sexual or psychological abuse of a person with whom te tamaiti has a family/whānau relationship, or
  • puts te tamaiti or allows te tamaiti to be put at real risk of seeing or hearing that abuse occurring.

Meaning of psychological abuse ⁠— section 11 of Family Violence Act 2018

Impact of family violence on tamariki and rangatahi

For many tamariki and rangatahi in New Zealand, violence in their family/whānau is a common part of their childhood experience.

No matter the level or frequency of events, living around violence is likely to have an effect on the emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing of tamariki and rangatahi.

Exposure to violence also poses significant threats to the development of tamariki and rangatahi, the consequences of which can be long lasting. Within the complex dynamic of family/whānau conflict, tamariki and rangatahi need us to pay attention to them.

When family violence occurs, tamariki and rangatahi are victims themselves, irrespective of their parent or caregiver being a victim, if they’ve been exposed to family violence in any way, such as witnessing or being aware of it, even if they haven’t been physically harmed.

When assessing the seriousness of the harm that has occurred, consider the impact of the violence and the cumulative harm of that exposure.

Serious harm

Cumulative harm

Family violence practice triggers