More than 3500 domestic-violence reports were made to Northland police in the year to June, more than nine a day, but family violence experts say the problem is much bigger, because only 18 per cent of abuse is reported.
Figures released to the Advocate show 2011 domestic violence incidents were reported in Whangarei/Kaipara in the 12 months to June 30, and 1504 in the Far North; a total of 3515, or 67 a week on average. That includes an increase of about 500 reports from last year.
Stacey Pepene, trainer/educator with Te Puna O Te Aroha Maori Women's Refuge in Whangarei and a spokeswoman for the It's Not Okay In Whangarei anti-domestic violence group, said she was not surprised reported abuse was rising.
Ms Pepene said family violence had been an issue for New Zealand for a long time, although the rise in reports showed that the taboo of domestic violence was starting to be broken.
"The thing that is changing though is that society is recognising it and acting on it," she said. "The police figures show that this is a big issue and we know that only about 18 per cent of family violence is actually reported. The statistics are reflecting what we already know about New Zealand.
"But with things like It's Not Okay In Whangarei and huge Government input into raising awareness of the issue, more and more people now come forward to report family violence to police.
"And that's great, New Zealand is starting to take more responsibility for the care of its families."
Most domestic violence involved male brutality towards women or children, but there were cases of violent women.
Ms Pepene said a positive was that Northland groups working with domestic violence were seeing more self-referrals from men wanting to break the cycle.
"The perpetrators are starting to step up to the plate, too, and are seeking help before they go through the court system. That, in itself, is reflective of people wanting to make changes and help themselves," she said.
The violence could only end if it became a topic people openly talked about and everyone stood up to say it was not okay.
"Family violence has got to be as common to talk about as fire safety or brushing your teeth ... we've all got a part to play in it by taking an interest in what is happening in your neighbourhood, your community, and reporting any family violence."
Nationwide, police were called to nearly 90,000 domestic-violence incidents in the past financial year, more than 240 a day. About as many calls were made to the Women's Refuge hotline in the same period with nearly 86,000 crisis calls received. Police investigated 23 family violence deaths.
If you or someone you know is being abused - tell someone.
- Police: 111
- Women's Refuge Helpline: 0800 REFUGE
- Family Violence Information Line: 0800 456 450
- Crimestoppers: anonymously, on 0800 555-111
- Child Youth and Family: 0508 326459