For the last year and a quarter I have been managing a women’s refuge - a role I was thrown into due to Covid but something I had put out to the universe (I had been wanting to work with and help women more, particularly around mental health ) It has taught me so much about just how bad domestic abuse and violence is in this country. The reality is it’s a constant and major issue but we only hear about a tiny tiny portion of it. I have dealt with suicide attempts, women with brain damage from such severe beatings, women with broken bones and bruised faces but even worse the phycological abuse that has broken their spirits, women fearing for their lives, very mentally unwell women who are not getting the help they desperately need, volatile hurting people, a lot of pain and sadness, many broken hearts, a lot of hurt and despair but also hope for a better life, relief when they realise they are safe, pride when they work through their issues and become strong enough not to go back, gratitude at simple gestures like a hug or positive words. I’ve seen women come in so broken they can barely talk and leave glowing and smiling and that has made my tears and the pain I’ve felt more worthwhile. I’ve learnt that as humans the most valuable thing is to feel safe and yet so many are living in situations where they can not sleep at night for fear of what might happen to them. I’ve learnt how so much of it is cultural, it’s what they grow up in and experience as normal and so accept it when it happens to them. I’ve learnt that sometimes love makes us blind to how bad something is. And that there are still a lot of men out there who think women are inferior, they are theirs to treat how they like. And all of it breaks my heart, all of it is heavy and sad. We think we live in this beautiful clean green paradise but for so many it’s hell. Every day is another day in hell for them. The change needs to start from all of us. It needs to start by being less flippant about someone getting the ‘bash’ it’s really not funny. It needs to start by checking in on your friends or work colleagues if you notice odd behaviours or changes. It needs to start in the home by not fighting in front of children so they grow up thinking it’s normal. By saying something if you see behaviour that is not ok. We can do better and be better.
I’ve also seen so much burn out, in working with various government agencies day in day out, in relation to mental health services, domestic violence services, police, nurses, social workers, case workers….even myself, burnt out from the fatigue of dealing with so many people who are not getting enough help and support. They can no longer provide the support they are being asked to because it’s too much. There are not enough people to do the work so everyone is over loaded and taking on too much. I took only a couple weeks off in that time, was on call 24/7 and spent many hours late at night or over the weekend going in to support the women through anxiety and panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, and other issues. After helping hundreds of women with no support myself I’m pretty drained so I totally understand where the issue lies for our health workers! They are amazing and can not be thanked enough for the work they do day in day out all probably quite underpaid. I implore Jacinda and our government to listen to the cries for help - the health workers are the glue to this country. When it’s your health or your whanau will you be so dismissive of health care workers?