Walking Alongside Her Clients at the Most Pivotal Moment of Their Lives

A picture of Chelsea smiling at the camera

Since the start of the pandemic, Aviva has had to operate a near-constant waitlist to manage increased demand. Although the waitlist is meant for people who are “low to medium risk,” it can also include people who don’t have a protection order. Even for those who are low risk, the longer they stay on the waitlist the more at risk they may become. 

Chelsea is the Crisis Intervention Support Worker supporting these people.

“The people I’m working with are people whose immediate safety is at risk, and they come to me because getting out of abusive relationships is hard. It can be dangerous, and it can be very lonely. They might be too scared or not ready to involve the police yet, or they may need to get into a place of safety before they’re able to contact them. It’s about intervening at that time and getting people to safety before something terrible happens.”

Chelsea provides immediate practical support to people, often completely in secret. 

“I’m helping this one woman and her husband is oblivious that she and her daughter are leaving him next week. She’s got a confidential house set up. She’s got separate bank accounts. She’s got everything ready.” (This woman has since left her husband and is in a safe place). 

Chelsea also supports people who want to stay in their homes. 

“Just having secure locks makes a big difference. Parents are finally able to provide a safe home for their children, and their children are getting more relaxed and seem happier. 

“One client I installed an alarm for because I had serious concerns. The next day her partner broke in and she believes he was there to kill her. She said, ‘You saved my life by having that alarm in there.’” 

The latest lockdown saw a lot of people reaching out. 

“It was the wakeup call that this isn’t how they wanted to live,” explains Chelsea. Many ended up coming to her. 

“It was trickier, you had to be smarter about when you could see someone. Like the carpark for 10 minutes when the user of violence has gone on a walk. That’s the time we’ve got, that’s the time we use. I installed an alarm across a deck, just slid it over to her and talked to her from my car while she set it up.” 

It’s not just practical support Chelsea provides. Sometimes her role is just to be a listening ear.

“Sometimes I can just throw my notes out the window. They just need to chat with someone who is not family or friends judging them, someone who knows the nuances of family harm.” 

She describes a session she had with one client: 

“When she came in, honestly, she just cried for an hour and a half. I praised her the whole time. I ended up sitting on the ground on my knees next to her, just holding her hand as she cried, because that’s what she needed that day. 

“I see a lot of trauma in my role, but the loneliness is probably what hits me the most, because you just want to give them a big hug, tell them, ‘You didn’t deserve this.’ There is no one else out there for them. You’re the first one to say, ‘I’ll be there for you. I’ll be your cheerleader. I’ll be on your team.’” 

To those unsure about reaching out, Chelsea says, “Trust your gut. By the time people are at the stage in the relationship where they’re coming to me, they don’t trust their gut anymore. It’s been eroded out of them. But if something about your relationship isn’t sitting right with you, give us a phone call, come have a kōrero. Don’t keep it a secret. There is a way out.”