What is violence and abuse?

Need help now?

If you are in immediate danger dial 111. If you are not in immediate danger, but need help call 0800 28482 669 to speak to one of our team.

What is family violence?

Family violence has many names. It is commonly known as domestic violence, family harm, or domestic abuse.

At Aviva, we favour the term ‘family violence’, but ultimately all of these labels describe the same thing.

Family violence is any behaviour designed to gain power and control over a spouse, partner, child or other intimate family member. Many people associate the word ‘violence’ with physical assaults, but family violence is not limited to physical abuse.

Relationship Check

What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is any type of sexual contact or behaviour that you do not willingly and explicitly agree to. It includes a wide range of behaviours, and the words used to describe these are varied. They can include rape, attempted rape, sexual violation, coerced sexual activity, and sexual harassment or threats (including digital harassment and threats).

What are the kinds of violence and abuse?

Physical assault is just one kind of violence. Others include:

  • Using coercion and threats
  • Using intimidation
  • Emotional abuse
  • Isolation
  • Minimising, denying and blaming
  • Using children
  • Economic abuse
  • Using/asserting dominance over another person
  • Sexual assault/abuse

The wheel of Power & Control explains the types of violence in more depth.

Family violence in Aotearoa

Family violence is one of Aotearoa’s most serious social issues.

Did you know…?

  • Police investigate over 100,000 incidents of family violence annually – about 1 every 4 minutes
  • Only 24% of family violence incidents are reported to police
  • Half of all homicides are committed by family members
  • On average, 9 children under the age of 14, are killed every year by a family member
  • 24% of women and 6% of men report having experienced sexual assault in their lifetime
  • 14% of young people report being hit or physically harmed by an adult at home
  • New Zealand has the highest reported rate of intimate partner violence in the OECD
  • An enquiry in 2014 estimated that family violence costs New Zealand up to 7 billion a year
The effects of family violence

The impact of abuse and violence on adults – long and short term:


  • Increased feelings of shame and guilt
  • Confusion
  • Loss of self-confidence
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Loss of dreams/passion
  • Increased feelings of rage
  • Feeling powerless

Physical Heath

  • Increased Injury Risk
  • Death

Mental Health

  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Stress related disorder
  • Behavioural changes
  • Self-harm
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Addictive behaviours
The effects of family violence on children

Child abuse is family violence. Children who live in a home where there is violence are known to be significantly more at risk of being the victims of physical, sexual and psychological abuse and neglect than any other children.

Some of the impacts on children include:

  • an inability to concentrate or engage appropriately in learning or play activities
  • becoming withdrawn, uncommunicative, isolated
  • finding it difficult to form attachments and maintain good relationships with adults and other children
  • trouble sleeping, or settling down
  • showing disruptive behaviours - tantrums, bullying, aggression
  • excessive fears, shyness
  • unhappiness, worries and anxiety
  • demanding excessive attention
  • physical or emotional neglect
  • being unable to confide in or trust other adults

Access Support

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing family violence, it’s important to access the right support.

   • Call 0800 AVIVA NOW (0800 28482 669) or (03) 378 3847
   • Email enquiries@aviva.org.nz
   • If you are an external agency wanting to refer a client you can find our referral forms here

Relationship Check - Quiz