Understanding family or relationship violence

Family or relationship violence is an abuse of power by someone close to you. It could be from your partner, family member or flatmate.

It can take many forms, including:

  • Physical abuse, such as hitting, punching or choking.
  • Psychological abuse, including threats, stalking, intimidation or humiliation, isolation, control, sabotage and other disruptive behaviours to stop someone coming to University or causing them to be late.
  • Sexual abuse, such as coerced sexual activity or forced pregnancy or abortions.
  • Financial abuse, including controlling someone’s financial decisions or forcing someone to work.
  • Spiritual abuse, such as not allowing someone the freedom to follow their own faith or beliefs.

Abuse can happen to anyone. It affects people of all ages, religions, ethnicity, socio-economic backgrounds and of any gender identity or sexual orientation.


Research shows that one in three New Zealand women experience physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. Studies also show there are high rates of violence against female students internationally, and that family violence is as prevalent in the LGBTI community as it is in the heterosexual community – but tends to be reported less.

Family or relationship violence and abuse becomes a University issue when it affects the performance, effectiveness, wellbeing or safety of our students and staff.

We can help keep our campuses safer by supporting members of our University community as they find their pathway out of violence.

Impacts on study and work

Students or staff experiencing family and relationship violence and abuse may be distressed and distracted from their study or work, or they may need to take time off to seek support. They may leave their course or workplace because they are hiding from their abuser, or they may have a protection order with implications for the University.

Friends or colleagues may be distressed if they witness the effects of family violence on their students or colleagues. They may take on an increased workload if they try to help, or alternatively, if unaware of the situation, they may think the victim is not pulling their weight. Friends or colleagues may also intervene if someone they know is being harassed on our campuses.

Students or staff who use violence may pose a risk to the health, safety and wellbeing of members of the University community. They may use University time or resources to harass their victim, or have a protection order against them denying them access to certain areas or buildings.

People who experience family violence tend to have a more disrupted work history and to have changed their jobs frequently. For staff members, stable employment can offer the financial resources and social support needed to escape and recover from family violence.

Adverse health outcomes are also consistently linked to family violence, causing further impact on study or work.

Examples of these can be found in our Understanding Family Violence ebook.

The pdf includes definitions and more information about the prevalence of family violence in New Zealand, as well as its impact on study and work, and health and safety. It also contains case studies of how family violence may affect students and staff, and some of the tactics used to exert power and control.


Further information