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Auckland Council provides safe online tool for domestic violence victims

Shielded Site icon live on council website

Published: 21 October 2020

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Stay safe

Auckland Council is proud to support the Women’s Refuge New Zealand Shielded Site – a web-based portal providing communities a safe and secure avenue to reach out for help.

From today, the Shielded Site icon will appear on the council’s website, giving victims of domestic violence a safe, untraceable way to access help.

Auckland Councillor Cathy Casey said council is proud to support all positive actions which can help prevent family violence in Auckland and create safe families and whānau.  

“The Shielded Site allows people to get safe access for assistance without alerting the abuser. That means individuals and families may now reach out for help who might not have previously,” Clr Casey said.

New Zealand Police reported an increase in domestic violence during this year’s COVID-19 lockdowns.

“Ending domestic violence is something that we should all be working towards,” Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said.

“No one should be put in a position where they are not safe in their own home or where they are unable to access the support and help they need.

“I hope the addition of the Women’s Refuge New Zealand Shielded Site portal to Auckland Council’s website will enable victims of domestic violence to get the help safely and without putting themselves or their children at risk.”

The Shielded Site allows those who are unable to safely seek help using technology to access essential information and advice privately and without fear that their abusers, who may be monitoring their victims browser history, will know they have been reaching out. 

A web-chat function enables victims to immediately connect with specialists in family violence to receive advice and assistance in real time, while also maintaining absolute confidentiality and leaving no digital footprint.

Women’s Refuge Communication Manager Susan Barker said technology has extended the reach of abusers.

“Victims of domestic violence live in fear of their every move being monitored,” she said.

“An abusive partner may use a phone’s GPS location, a victim’s email or banking passwords, even their web history to keep tabs on them – making it harder than ever for those looking for help, to find it.”

A number of New Zealand businesses also have the icon on their websites, including The Warehouse, Countdown, New Zealand Post and all major banks.

Local councils support Women’s Refuge Shielded Site

Earlier this year Women's Refuge New Zealand chief executive Dr Ang Jury and Palmerston North Horizons Councillor Fiona Gordon wrote to all 78 councils nationwide asking them to add the Shielded Site to their websites.

“The responses from Councillors around the country have been very positive,” Clr Gordan said.

She said the number of councils now hosting the Shielded Site had increased to 21 in April to 50.

“I consider local government to be well-positioned to take a leadership role within their communities and this may well inspire more local businesses to host the Shielded Site too.”

Amy’s story

When I was with my ex, the only time I had where he wasn’t tracking what I was doing was when I was at work. Then we went into lockdown.

I mean he checked my phone and listened in even when I was talking to Mum – it is like he was terrified of anyone else knowing what he could be like.

I guess I felt really trapped, I knew the consequences of being caught trying to get away from him would be awful, so bad that I did not even want to risk it.

I just didn’t know what to do at all – where to go, how I would support myself, and I was terrified of losing the kids.  I had been with him for so many years and I just saw no way out.

One night it just got to the point where I knew I had to get out or I just didn’t know if I would be around much longer or even wanted to be.

I felt like a failure as a mother and it was a pretty low point. Anything had to better than the life I was living.

 I had heard about shielded site from a friend, because my workplace had added it to their site. So, I went onto the work site which would not be unusual if he searched my internet history and he always did.

I found the little icon and from there I was able to talk to a counsellor online, that very second. I was so confused and scared but she spoke to me for a long time. For the first time I realised this wasn’t all my fault and I wasn’t alone.

I talked to a counsellor a few days through shielded before I was comfortable being put in touch with a Women’s Refuge advocate. She was given a specific time to contact me when he was out.

My advocate helped me to put together a safety play that allowed myself and my children to leave at a time that was the lowest risk.

I stayed in the safe house for three weeks while we found accommodation and sorted out my finances. I am still trying to put the pieces back together and still engaging with Women’s Refuge but I feel like a huge weight as been lifted from me.

I don’t think I even realised how toxic my life had become until I experienced without the weight of having an abusive partner in my life.

Amy* from Auckland (*name changed to protect identity)

What if I feel unsafe?

Women’s Refuge have several ways you can get in contact:

  • Ring our crisis line on 0800 REFUGE
  • Find your local Women’s Refuge here
  • Send a Facebook message through Women’s Refuge Facebook page
  • Email us at: info@refuge.org.nz
  • Send a confidential message through our Shielded Site feature found on the Auckland Council website
  • If you or a family member are in immediate danger call 111

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