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The men using Hawke’s Bay Women’s Refuge: Why the vital service isn’t just open to women

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It’s not just women who can access the services of Women’s Refuge in Hawke’s Bay. Photo / Unsplash

The name “Women’s Refuge” would suggest it’s exactly that: a service purely to help shelter abused women.

But you might be surprised to know that men can also seek crucial support from the service when they are victims of domestic violence.

Hawke’s Bay Today reporter Mitchell Hageman talks to one of those men.

When Vincent’s wife at the time went “manic” and got violent, the first thing he thought about was his young daughter.

Shocked and fearing the safety of his own home, his mind jumped to a place where young women find safety in the face of danger.

“I called Women’s Refuge. I was actually calling them to get some help for my daughter, but they said, ‘We take men now as well’.

With nowhere to go, the staff at Women’s Refuge, under the umbrella of Family VIP services, came to the rescue, giving him and his daughter the crucial support they needed.

“They took us in pretty quickly, provided us with a place to stay, and tried to set us up with counselling and find us some more permanent accommodation,” Vincent said.

“We were with Women’s Refuge for two months, and then we managed to get emergency housing through Winz for a year. We’re now in a rental place.”

Vincent is one of the lucky ones.

Many men in similar situations resort to sleeping in their car, on a mate’s couch, or even on the street when impacted by family violence.

He said that as soon as he contacted the organisation, they tried everything they could to help him and his daughter despite facing numerous obstacles.

“They tried a lot of things. It’s hard because many of the systems for people escaping violent relationships are mainly set up for females.

“They helped us find a lawyer we could use for the legal side of things and worked really hard to find one that was suitable.”

Many men might also not see the organisation as a point of contact because of the name, Victor said.

“When it’s called Women’s Refuge, guys often think it is just for women, but with [VIP Family Services] it helps get the message out there that there is somewhere to go,” he said.

“I know a lot of guys that have been in this situation or similar situations. They haven’t been able to know where to go.”

Napier and Hastings Women’s Refuge operates under the umbrella of VIP (Violence, Intervention and Prevention) Family Services, a name and brand that stands for family safety, security, and welfare.

Family VIP Services whanau support advocate transitional housing Natasha Dodds has worked with male domestic violence victims and seen the struggles they faced due to a lack of wider support.

“Not only wāhine go through domestic violence; we’ve been finding a lot of males go through similar situations,” she said.

“People believe men can’t be physically abused by women, which is untrue, because anybody with hands and legs can be hit by somebody.”

The organisation has three safehouses, two in Hastings and one in Napier.

There is also a standalone home in Hastings that is mainly open for women with multiple children, but when a recent male victim reached out with his child, Dodds said it was available for use.

“There is no specific refuge for male victims, but because space was available, we took the opportunity to keep them safe while they were going through their trauma.”

She said it was “absolutely” ok for men to contact Women’s Refuge/Family VIP Services if they needed assistance, Dodds said.

“To be quite honest, male victims tend not to reach out, and it’s mainly word of mouth.

“Even though we don’t have a specific refuge for them, we can still help them in the community and wrap those supports around them.”

But the resounding message from both Dodds and Vincent to males suffering was clear. Don’t let the name Women’s Refuge discourage you from calling up.

“Reach out if you need help.”

Hawke’s Bay Today is partnering with Women’s Refuge in Hawke’s Bay to help it build a new public office to move the organisation out of the shadows and into the spotlight. You can donate here.

How to donate

QR code – Train your phone camera on the graphic above

Website – Familyvip.org.nz

Bank account – 06 0701 0562989 03; please use the reference “HBToday”

Email contact – fundraising@familyvip.org.nz

Phone – Bronwyn Harman on 021 877 903

Do you need help?

If you’re in danger now:

  • Phone the police via 111 or ask neighbours or friends to ring for you.
  • Run outside and head for where there are other people.
  • Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
  • Take the children with you.
  • Don’t stop to get anything else.
  • If you are being abused, remember it’s not your fault. Violence is never okay.
  • Women’s Refuge: A free national crisis line operates 24/7 – 0800 Refuge or 0800 733 843. Website: womensrefuge.org.nz.

Mitchell Hageman joined Hawke’s Bay Today in January 2023. From his Napier base, he writes regularly on social issues, arts and culture, and the community. He has a particular love for stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.



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