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Family violence is common in Aotearoa and has devastating impacts on whānau, hapū and iwi. To create change, we need to support those who experience violence, look out for the safety of tamariki, and support the wellbeing of those who want to stop.

The effects of alcohol

Alcohol does not directly cause family violence, but can make it worse. 

The facts are:

  • alcohol can increase the risk of serious violence
  • 1 in 4 of the most severe intimate partner assaults in Aotearoa involved alcohol
  • alcohol is often used to cope, by people who experience or cause violence.

You may have noticed some people using alcohol as an excuse or a way to justify violence. This is unacceptable. Remember that nobody has the right to hurt or control another person, no matter what reasons they give.

Family violence is complex. It’s usually about more than just drinking and can be affected by other situations or someone’s place in their whānau. Violent incidents are often kept secret because of feelings of guilt and whakamā, especially if tamariki are involved. 

There is also no history of family violence in Māori society. Colonisation brought norms that led to the loss of cultural identity, land, and protection for Māori wāhine and tamariki. Māori whānau who experience family violence today still live with these effects of colonisation and intergenerational trauma. 

Getting the right support and being prepared to accept help is a good first step in making a change. 

If you are experiencing violence

Over half of wāhine Māori in Aotearoa have experienced family violence at some stage in their lives. This does not mean that violence happens to wāhine only. Anyone can be harmed by a partner, ex-partner, or whānau member. 

Some people use alcohol to cope, manage, and survive. In many situations, they drink because they feel:

  • trapped with no way to find help
  • worried about what a partner might do to them or their tamariki
  • the need to be numb to what has happened, or what might happen.

This use of alcohol is called ‘resistance’. Understanding this might be useful when you’re looking for support with your drinking.

Remember that this is not your fault. Experiencing violence is not normal or healthy. Everyone deserves to live a life free from violence and fear. 

If you are ready, you can talk to someone you trust or call a helpline. No situation is ‘not serious enough’ for you to get help, and you will not be judged:

"I don’t wanna know, or have that feeling that my son’s growing up without a mum you know, asking all these questions. “Why did my mum do it? Why did my mum drink? Why did my mum do this? Why wouldn’t she give up for me? Why couldn’t she do this for me?” My son shouldn’t be left answer-less, he deserves those answers; he deserves a parent."
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If you are causing harm

You might be aware of your behaviour and the feelings it has brought up in your whānau or others close to you. Maybe someone has approached you about it. Realising and accepting this is a step towards progress. 

Changing old habits can be hard, but getting the right support will help. 

Keep in mind:

  • There are many steps towards change, and stopping drinking is just one of them.
  • Find a non-violence programme that works for you and your whānau. 
  • You can help with your alcohol use and family violence at the same time. Sometimes you will need two different organisations to help, but you can ask them to work together.
  • It takes time to accept responsibility. Talking openly about it has helped a lot of people.

You can also contact the following confidential services:

Keeping tamariki and rangatahi safe

Family violence and alcohol can be hurtful and confusing for our tamariki and rangatahi. Some people grow up to suffer the long-term effects of family violence from a young age.  

When parents or caregivers drink, tamariki are more likely to experience more harm. They can experience violence even if they do not see or hear it.

To break the cycle of violence, tamariki and rangatahi need guidance. They should understand that the violence is not their fault. 

Finding the right support service can help tamariki even if the violence does not stop right away. A professional can make a plan for what tamariki can do in a violent situation and help them understand what is going on. They also do this based on a person’s age. 

If you have an immediate concern about tamariki safety, call 111.

Getting help for your whānau

If you think someone might be drinking to cope with family violence, or are being harmed, you can take action.

Build trust 

Let them know you care. People who experience violence often feel isolated and cut off from their whānau and friends. Stay connected to them.


They know their partner, the risks, and dangers best. Listen to them. Leaving a relationship can be dangerous and we cannot push people until they are ready. 

Ask how you can help

Let them prioritise and tell you how they want your help. You can be a choice that is available to them if they need extra support.

Be aware and be kind

If they are using alcohol to cope with violence, do not judge them for it. You may not always understand or agree with the way they resist abuse, but it is important to acknowledge it as a response. This behaviour does not contribute to the abuse and they are not bringing it on themselves. Always treat them in a way that upholds their dignity and mana.

Professional help

Call 111 if it’s an emergency. You can also contact a health service to get advice on how you can support someone. They are not just there for people experiencing violence and will remain confidential.