Fight the virus, not the family

“Coronavirus: Police plan for spike in family violence” (Stuff, 18 March 2020)

“Covid 19 coronavirus: Family violence tipped to rise, but help services are there 24/7 during lockdown” (NZ Herald, 25 March 2020)

 “How the COVID-19 lockdown has created a ‘perfect storm’ for domestic violence” (NewsHub, 2 April 2020)

These are three of what will become a string of article headings in New Zealand relating to the contribution of COVID-19 to family violence over the next few weeks.  While we try to forecast what will happen in NZ, we can learn from what is happening in other parts of the world.

  • In France, two weeks after the lockdown was announced, domestic violence increased by 32%.
  • In certain parts of China, domestic violence complaints tripled and
  • Job losses, increased stress, anxiety and uncertainty have led to increased family harm across the globe.

While we continue to go back and forth about what will happen, this blog raises the questions – what can we do as a collective to –  

  1. Prevent family violence from happening
  2. Keep our kainga safe if it does happen.

And in raising these questions I will borrow a catchphrase I recently saw (on an article about increasing family violence overseas) – “Fight the Virus, not the Family.”

My insight on Family Violence

After working at the University of Auckland for 10+ years, my first contract job was to rewrite the Tongan conceptual framework (Fofola e fala ka e talanoa e kāinga) for Nga Vaka o Kāiga Tapu – a conceptual framework for addressing family violence. For two years (2016-2018) I travelled up and down the country – delivering workshops to practitioners and community leaders and providing statistics on Pacific Family Violence.   

During this time, I also worked alongside Dr Jean Mitaera and Riripeti Reedy, the facilitators for the Cook Island Framework better known as Tūranga Māori. With their permission, I will use the Tūranga Māori framework to demonstrate how we can use Pacific frameworks to help keep our families safe and prevent family violence from happening.

Tūranga (Roles)

Irrespective of how young or old you are, everyone is born with Tūranga.  It is the acknowledgement by self and others of one’s position/standing and potential within the collective.  If I were to use my brother as an example – He is a husband, a father, a son, a brother and professionally he is a sworn Police officer. These are the “hats” he wears – this is his Tūranga.

Piri’anga (Relationships)

Every Tūranga has Pirianga – This is where he (an individual) and everyone else in our ’āiga bubble (collective) belong to a reciprocal network. His role as son is tied to our mother/father, his role as husband is tied to his wife, and his role as father is tied to his children. Their Tūranga is tied to his Pirianga and vice versa. 

Akaue’anga (Duty of Care)

Every Tūranga, Pirianga has Akaue’anga.  This is the acknowledgement and fulfilment of individual and collective duties.   This is a “Duty of Care” that is tied to each role we have.  As a son, my brothers tūranga means he often checks up on my parents, making sure they’re watching what they eat or exercising in the bubble and in return they ask him how his day has been especially after a shift as an essential worker.

My mum prays for him – that is her way of exercising akaue’anga – her duty of care to her son.  His role as father is tied to his children where his duty of care during this past week has been to keep them safe by ensuring they stay inside our aiga bubble.  In return they help their mother with chores and sing along when their father plays choir master – exercising their akaue’anga to my brother.   

Everyone is born with Tūranga (roles), Pirianga (relationships) and Akaue’anga (a Duty of Care).  In our bubbles, we operate with these three things in mind.  In the space of family violence prevention, we can use our Cultural frameworks to help us check in and interact within our bubbles. For example, if you see or hear signs of distress or anxiety in others – quickly ask yourself:

  1. What is their Tūranga
  2. What is their Pirianga to me and
  3. How can I exercise Akaue’anga (Duty of Care) to ensure that their stress or anxiety is alleviated?

If it’s a grandparent, formulate a plan to exercise your Duty of Care and follow through. It could be something as simple as offering to watch the baby for half an hour or picking up the phone to check up on someone.  

What to do if you see violence

Every Tūranga has Pirianga and Akaue’anga.  Across New Zealand, there will be victims who need your help.  They could be a grandparent, parent, sibling, niece, nephew, neighbour, aunt, uncle friend or colleague.  Your Duty of Care is to ensure they are safe and living in an environment that is violent-free. Exercising your Duty of Care could mean ringing 111, helping them get to safety or seek help. In all of this – we need to work as a collective, whether it be in the preventative phase, intervention or postvention to ensure that while in the bubble – we fight the virus and not the family.

For more support relating to Family violence please refer to:

(all contact details can be found on the Pasefika Proud website). 

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