Manaaki: A New Life at 25

15th of May, 2018

Manaaki* came to Aviva for support in September 2017. The 25-year old describes himself as “a raging alcoholic, drinking until I blanked out. I just had lots of anger. The last strike was when I hit out at my partner - I never, ever thought I’d be capable of that. It was a side of me I didn’t like.”

Manaaki

Manaaki Googled support and after calling Aviva’s 0800 line he was connected with our Youth Services team (which generally supports young people aged 13 – 25). “I came in that day and Mike began helping me” says Manaaki. “He assured me that I was going to be alright. I had felt completely alone, and it was good to have some hope.”

Manaaki had a “savage” childhood. “My father was an alcoholic and he was abusive.” Manaaki’s earliest memory is his father threatening his mother with a machete. “We watched her get beaten a lot – a few times a week; then it was our turn. There was lots of physical and sexual abuse, and Mum suffered a lot of mental illness.”

Money was so tight that the family would go months without power, eating just the bare minimum. “We all ended up in CYF (now Oranga Tamariki) care. I stayed in CYF foster care for two years. Any money I got from doing chores, I’d give to my parents to help them. Eventually I ran away and was a street kid for many years, eating out of bins. It was better than going home.

“On the streets I picked up a lot of bad traits, like ‘blacking out’ and being immune to violence. There was nothing in my heart to have any mercy on anyone. I’d make money by being a pimp, looking after the girls on the street, as well as robbing. It was normal for me, but it was getting worse. I was assaulting family, friends – anyone.

“As for my partner, I’m not even sure how I got to be in a relationship. I guess I was just lucky. She opened my eyes by coming into my life, and she built this heart I can care about. I wanted to make her happy, to protect her. So when I hit her, I knew I couldn’t live like that anymore.”

Support from the Youth team has helped Manaaki change his life completely. “The thing I learnt most was thinking about my situation - what triggers me and how to avoid/ manage those. I used to have a million questions in my head about another person, and I’d answer those questions myself, then attack. I learnt a lot of techniques about stopping and thinking first.”

“My whole vibe has changed from the inside out…even my walk has changed. Life is peaceful; I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life.”

“The work with Mike taught me a lot about how what happening in the past affected me, and how I thought what I was used to seeing was normal. He showed me the difference between healthy/unhealthy behvaiours in the way I treat people. That was important in my relationship with my partner, because now I realise that I need to explain how I feel rather than just get angry. It has also helped my relationship with friends, colleagues - everyone has benefitted from it.”

Manaaki is now working in a job he’d previously had. “They knew me before and they see a big difference in me. If I was still the same person I wouldn’t have gotten my job back.” He even invited his Youth Worker Mike to visit his local marae to celebrate his course graduation.

As part of his one-on-one sessions, Manaaki was introduced to an Aviva Peer Support Specialist who told her 'story' and how this led her into working for Aviva and helping others. Manaaki found this inspiring and he then took the opportunity to undertake the peer support community-based child wellbeing training Aviva piloted late in 2017. “That opened hidden doors and hurts I hadn’t realised I still held” he says. “But it was good – it opened my eyes to what had happened to me as a child. My partner has children and in starting this journey I had to think about the life I was showing them. So I’ve been applying the tools from this course to my parenting – we’re a happier family at home now, and the kids see their mother happier.

“Life is great now. I don’t have to look over my shoulder, and because I stopped drinking after coming to Aviva, I wake up with no regrets. My whole vibe has changed, from the inside out. Since I started with Aviva I feel even my walk has changed. Life is peaceful; I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life.”

 

*not his real name

 

The Future Can't Wait

15th of May, 2018

Around the corner, down the street or next door to you there is someone living with violence or fear. It’s a lonely place to be. 

Heart                 

Family violence is shockingly prevalent in our communities. You may believe that the circle of people you interact with is immune, but given that New Zealand has one of the highest rates of partner violence and child abuse in the developed world  (one in three women and one in seven children will experience violence from an adult in their home)[1], that’s probably not the case. 

At Aviva, we believe that New Zealand can be violence-free. If we all choose not to ignore or condone family violence, and if we ensure that the right support is there – freely, obviously, accessibly and empathetically – to overcome its effects, we can achieve that future.

The future of our children is especially at risk because children who experience or even witness violence are at greater risk or living in violent relationships as adults.

In 2016 Police investigated 118,910 family violence incidents - one every 5 minutes. 76% of family violence incidents are NOT reported to Police.

A safe future is too important to wait for, but so often that future does wait – for the courage to speak or for things to become unbearable and then, when people do reach out, they often wait for their name to rise to the top of a waitlist for support. A lack of resources means that we must prioritize people based on their situation and risk, and some may wait three-six weeks for the in-depth support they need. That is not OK.

But as a community of caring people who want the best for ourselves and others, we can support people to create violence-free futures. That’s why we need your help, you can make an online donation here.

We also ask people to think of other ways to raise funds for the services that so many of our neighbours, colleagues, friends or family may need to use. Perhaps you could take up a collection at work, run a raffle, or arrange a quiz… anything you do is a huge help to people waiting to live without violence.

Together, we can ensure our most vulnerable children and their families get the support they need, when they need it. Together, we can work toward creating a violence-free Aotearoa. Transforming lives and changing futures is too important to wait; you can help ensure it doesn’t.



[1] http://areyouok.org.nz/family-violence/statistics/

 

Adam's Journey of Change

15th of May, 2018

Adam* and his wife Bella* had been having problems for quite some time. One of the main causes for discord was that when they disagreed, Andy would verbally abuse Bella. Things got to a point where Bella insisted Adam address his anger issues once and for all.

“Our ‘discussions’ often turned feral” says Adam. “I felt she was totally unreasonable and so then I’d say horrible things to her. This had been going on for a while and she felt I needed to change. We had been at a counsellor’s office and had seen the pamphlet for ReachOut; I just rang the number.

“I started working with Gina (ReachOut Family Support Worker), and we have been working together for about 10 weeks now. She was easy to talk to, and not judgemental at all. I felt much better - much calmer. The big change has been in my thinking – I can recognise when I’m starting to get amped up. I now choose not to get rattled. I try walking away – that works well.

“I realised that getting angry isn’t helping me. Even though we may still disagree, I know my own truth in my own head, so I don’t let the disagreement upset me. We’re all entitled to our own opinions, and I can respect that. The last time we argued I held it all together – I felt quite empowered and calm instead of seething, like before. The hardest thing is being consistent, but I’m doing this for myself – I’m really trying to be different.”

Adam continues to see Gina for support to embed that consistency of change. “She is really quite good. (Her support) has really helped me.”

 

*not their real names

 

SASSC Spreads South

15th of May, 2018

Like family violence, sexual violence is often not talked about openly, but it is also a dark fact of our society, and its effects can be devastating and long-lasting.  

The need to deal more effectively with the trauma caused by sexual assault led the Government to invest significantly in this area in 2016, and actively ensure that adequate support services were available throughout the country, including rural areas. As part of this plan, in late 2017 Aviva and supporting partner START were successful in winning a tender to provide the Sexual Assault Support Service Canterbury (SASSC) to the Selwyn District, in addition to Christchurch city and North Canterbury. 

Aviva and START began operating SASSC in mid-2014 and demand has risen dramatically. In its first year of operation (2014-15), SASSC supported 138 clients; in the last financial year, that number had risen by 169% to 371, with extra support from only .6 of an additional staff member.

SASSC is a vital service because it provides confidential and professional specialist support to women and men following either recent or historic sexual violence or abuse. Whilst paid staff provide this crucial service 9am – 5pm, Monday – Friday, it is a dedicated team of trained volunteers that run the service during evenings and weekends. Between them the SASSC team provide advocacy and support for a client or their family during medical or legal processes; emergency face-to-face sessions for counselling, referrals, assistance in making informed decisions, and arranging access to resources; and specialist social work support until longer-term services becomes available (waiting times can range between six weeks and several months).

SASSC will provide local support for Selwyn through an integrated team approach, which will be hosted, managed and delivered by Aviva and located at The Loft. A part-time presence in Selwyn will enable face-to-face appointments. Aviva will be seeking to work in collaboration with other local agencies in provision of SASSC to build local information and referral networks.

Whilst Christchurch-based SASSC – which requires Selwyn residents to travel to Christchurch - currently, supports a small number of clients in that region, it is believed that demand is significantly under-represented there and that an on-the-ground presence will see this increase. This is especially likely as Selwyn is experiencing some of the most rapid population growth in New Zealand. Christchurch, Selwyn and Waimakariri are tipped to grow by about 150,000 people in the next 30 years, reaching 650,000 by 2048[1]. In addition, Selwyn is home to Burnham Military Camp and Lincoln University, both of which have a high and growing population of 18-24 year olds. This age group is a recognised high risk group that already makes up a third of SASSC clients.

If you or someone you know based in Christchurch, Selwyn or North Canterbury is interested in becoming a SASSC volunteer, please contact [email protected]



[1] https://www.star.kiwi/2018/03/massive-housing-demand-looms-region-sprawls/

 

"Life Finds a Way"

15th of May, 2018

That would be a great way to describe overcoming family violence, but actually Jurassic Park beat us to it! ‘Life Finds a Way’ is the tag line of the latest instalment, Fallen Kingdom, which is being released in New Zealand on 21 June, and Aviva are holding a screening on 5 July as a fundraiser.

Jurassic Park

 

Fallen Kingdom takes place on the island of Isla Nubar, where the dinosaurs which were previously contained within a theme park now roam freely. However, an impending volcanic eruption threatens them once again with extinction. Can they be saved? (and should they be saved?)

Needless to say, the special effects are amazing and incredibly life-like (we assume, not knowing what dinosaurs really looked like!) The evening will start at 6pm with time to mingle, a silent/live auction, and the screening will follow. This movie hasn’t been classified yet but earlier incarnations have been PG13. Tickets are $25 and are available here.

 

Supporting Men to Make the Biggest Step

15th of May, 2018

ReachOut Family Support Worker Gina Truckell has worked with Aviva since August 2017, supporting men causing, or at risk of causing, family violence harm to change their behaviours, and their lives.

Originally from the United Kingdom, Gina first came to New Zealand several years ago to travel, and then studied psychology and biology. Gina and her family returned for good in 2014, deciding to make New Zealand their permanent home. Following the arrival of a new baby, the move back into the work place had to be exactly the right one for Gina. Gina brought with her not just her university knowledge, but over 23 year of experience in the justice sector and a huge passion for working within the community to improve people’s lives.

Gina explains the Anger Pyramid

Gina explains the Anger Pyramid to a client


“I really wanted a job that mattered” Gina says, “and one where I could use all I had learned to help people.” Joining Aviva to work with men who had used violence was the role Gina had been looking for. Initially Gina worked with high risk users of violence as an Aviva Independent Perpetrator Specialist, part of the Integrated Safety response pilot. Since December Gina has transitioned to Aviva’s ReachOut service, which supports any man – not just those at highest risk of causing family violence harm - to address their violent behaviours or anger issues. Men generally self-refer to the service, or are referred by another agency. Unlike most services for men using violence, ReachOut is voluntary for participants and individually tailored. It teaches men strategies to build safer and more positive relationships with their partners, children, family members, colleagues and themselves.

Employing women into the ReachOut service in 2017 was a new direction for the service, but it has been one that has been welcomed by the men receiving support. “To them, my gender doesn’t matter; what matters is whether you can help. In some respects as a woman I can challenge more, or offer a different viewpoint. The feedback I’ve had has been that they have gotten something from our work together, that they have made important changes that others have also noticed. That’s important validation.”

“When someone asks for help, it’s the biggest step they can make.”

Gina loves working with men to help them achieve goals that will improve their own lives, and those of the people closest to them. “It’s wrong to think they will be intimidating or threatening. They are engaging with me because they want to make the change – they are not being forced – so they don’t come with anger. The dynamic is different than if they were being made to come (by Family Court order, for example). Most importantly, they’re human beings. We all have similarities and differences, and a genuine, empathetic viewpoint will make the connection.”

The biggest challenge, Gina says, comes after the first appointment, when the desire to change can dissipate. “I have to be very proactive in connecting with them. Many men also have other issues going on - mental health, AOD, even having the money for petrol or the bus to travel here. Although they’re ready, it may be difficult to make the change. There are blocks for them that we need to help remove.” 

The work is full of great moments for Gina, sometimes in ways that seem quite simple. “It can be as easy as stating something that might seem obvious, and challenging their perception – that helps them realise that there are other ways to do things. For instance, one client was not enjoying his job, and that stress was taking its toll within his relationship. Normally he would show his frustration at work as anger, get the sack and have to find another job. I suggested that he look for another job. The realisation that he could take control hadn’t occurred to him – so he applied elsewhere and got a new job. He was chuffed. He even stepped up at home, changing nappies for the first time and taking sick leave to look after the kids. It was a huge difference for him and his partner, seeing that change.”

Something Gina wants everyone to understand is that family violence is extremely complex, and “it’s important to realise and understand that the majority of men using violence have been victims of childhood abuse. They have had that behaviour role modelled – its normality to them. We have to remember that it’s the behaviour we’re not happy with, not the person. When someone asks for help, it’s the biggest step they can make. People can make change – it’s not easy and often a long process, but change can be made.”

 

Supporting Young People to Create Safer Relationships

28th of November, 2017

In 2012 Aviva began receiving Police reports of violence, using them as way of contacting people using violence; one of the most troubling things they showed was how many young people were named as the violent person.

Youth Team

We know that to interrupt the intergenerational cycle of family violence, we need to start working with young people early. Yet young people - particularly boys and young men - have not been well supported by the family violence sector.

Realising that we needed to be more proactive in engaging with young people, in 2014 Aviva began developing an in-school Healthy Relationships programme which, since 2015 (with support from the Dublin St Charitable Trust and Youthtown), we have offered in local schools. The programme was very popular and effective in educating young people about healthy and unhealthy behvaiours in their relationships with friends, families, and intimate partners. It also helped us to see that much more was needed.

Over the last 12 months, thanks to the support of the Wayne Francis Charitable Trust, Aviva has made significant progress in developing a one-to-one Youth Service to support young people that have been exposed to family or sexual violence, or are struggling with their own anger.

Our team of three deliver a personalised, family-centred service for young people up to 25 years old. Referrals come from the Police-report focussed Integrated Safety Response, self-referral via the Aviva 0800 support line and walk-ins to The Loft, education providers, health services, social services, counselling services and referrals from existing clients. Whichever way they enter service, the first thing a Youth Worker will do is complete a risk and needs assessment and develop an appropriate safety plan.

The team are very flexible in how and where they deliver the work, often doing home visits and meeting clients in the community or at school. They also utilise free local resources such as walking tracks, parks and shopping centres. Depending on what the young person might be interested in, their Worker is able to run sessions whilst completing an activity. This adaptability fosters engagement and that is essential in the success of the work.

As Jo also noted in our earlier article about her work with children, often what young people are lacking is positive role models; this is where the Youth Team adopts more of mentoring approach. Some of our younger clients frequently have problems at school, and in these cases the Youth Worker will provide advice and guidance on how to manage their behaviour in a way that compliments their ability to learn. They will also advocate for the young person when necessary, as young people often struggle communicating their needs to other professionals or family members. Once a positive relationship has been established, their Worker can advocate on their behalf, perhaps by attending meetings with them at health services, education providers, social services meetings, family disputes and many other situations.

Some of our young clients are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET). If appropriate, their Worker will help them to develop CVs, undertake employment searches or find volunteering opportunities, and provide careers advice. This is an essential part of helping them to build a positive future by providing safe and productive experiences that help them learn, whilst building self-esteem. 

The team’s creative and adaptive approach with young people has won them praise from clients and their families, and we’re sure will sow the seeds of positive change for many young people. Here’s what one mum recently said about the impact the support from the Youth Team had made on her son: “The service is amazing. It's the first time my son has engaged with someone and wants to attend each week. He frequently speaks about how valuable he finds it and how good it is having a male to talk to about things. I love that sessions are not just held in an office, but also out in nature. He desperately needs positive male role models in his life and this service has enabled him to get that.”

If you know a young person that could benefit from the support of our Youth Team, contact us on [email protected]

 

Giving the Gift of Time

28th of November, 2017

Time – it’s the one thing you can’t ever get back, and despite all of our ‘time-saving devices’, there never seems to be enough of it.

That makes it even more special when people give it so freely. From July 2016 until June 2017, Aviva was gifted 9,515 hours of voluntary time (not including approximately 200 more hours of street appeal and events support). If that seems like a lot to you, you’re right!! It’s equivalent to 237 40-hour weeks, or four and a half years of full-time work, valued at well over a quarter of a million dollars.

The majority of these hours come from our after-hours SASSC volunteers, as well as ACC return-to-work and student placements. Our SASSC volunteers provide 128 hours of volunteer time each week, making up over half of our gifted time total. This wonderful team of people are on hand in the evening and during weekends to support women and men in crisis following sexual assault. They may receive a call, attend the Cambridge Clinic with a client for a medical exam, or be called to the Police station to support someone make a statement. What they do is truly amazing. Erin, a SASSC volunteers, sums up why she gives so much time to SASSC – “Seeing that fear for themselves in another human being is difficult. But the really positive part of the role is being able to soothe someone – people are so grateful that you are giving them just what they need in that moment.” 

Aviva usually hosts at least one, and sometimes two, ACC clients preparing to return to the workforce after an injury. Typically they will work either on reception in The Loft, or assist us with databasing client notes. Starting at 12-15 hours per week, they gradually build up to a maximum of 30 hours per week. We’re very glad to say that three people who came to us on placement have since gone on to become Aviva employees.

Out Board members are volunteers, and staff also often gift time. We’re also lucky to have regular volunteers who assist with administration tasks, and occasional volunteer drivers for our children attending group education, who need to be collected from and returned to school. We simply could not afford to pay for that much assistance, and we are so very grateful to every person who gifts their time to support people overcome family and sexual violence.

If you would like to find out about being a volunteer in the Aviva family please download an application form from www.avivafamilies.org.nz, of call 0800 AVIVA NOW.

 

Healthy Communities, Healthy Children

28th of November, 2017

Thanks to the support of Ace Aotearoa, in July this year Aviva and partner Child Matters began developing a community-based and focussed Child Protection and Wellbeing Training programme.

Magic J

The intention is to adapt Aviva’s Purposeful Peer Support training programme through which those with past lived experience of family violence learn how to support others in their community safely and effectively, and adapt it to offer child protection training to community and whanau ‘champions’.

The training is designed to grow community leadership and enhance the capacity of those closest to our vulnerable children – their whÄ�nau, caregivers, neighbours and educators – to understand the importance of protecting the young people in their lives, and learn how to do so more effectively.

The pilot is linking with the ‘1000+’ initiative being run in the eastern suburbs. This focusses on supporting young children in the east during the 1000 days of their life before they turn five. Aviva and Hamilton-based Child Matters will bring child protection training expertise, family violence expertise, and a peer perspective to the 1000+ initiative. Workshops with Child Matters and the Development Team of the 1000+ project have helped to agree exactly how this pilot project can work alongside their existing initiatives, and establish what particular learnings the 1000+ development team hope this project could offer their work.

The training will evolve based on feedback as it is specifically intended to be community-led, developed and focussed. The 1000+ initiative already has well-established contacts amongst the local community, and community design workshops are being held in November and December. Following that, the training will be delivered to the community and, after further adaptation based on feedback, the completed community-centred, child protection education will be delivered to other members of the community.

 

Overcoming a Damaged Childhood

28th of November, 2017

Jo Corr joined Aviva just over one year ago in a new role of part-time Child Support Worker. She specialises in working with young children who have experienced family violence, and who have been named on a Protection Order. Working with children who have experienced trauma, and supporting them past their experiences, is a passion for Jo. As a Forensic Psychologist in the UK she worked men in prison serving life sentences. It was there that she saw how many of those men had been significantly affected into adulthood by troubled childhoods. “That motivated me to pursue work with families and children in order to contribute to the early interventions that can make a huge difference to children’s future outcomes” says Jo.

Jo

Understanding how children think and process things is critical in Jo’s work as children who’ve experienced family violence are often scared to talk about it. “Any discussion around family violence is always taken at the child’s pace. One of the most important things is to reassure the children that they are not responsible for the problems that their families have experienced.” says Jo. “From there, I tailor sessions to suit each child’s needs and personality. The sessions are educational to a certain extent but they are framed in a supportive way. I always let the children know that there are no wrong answers in our sessions, and no tests! There is a lot of play and games as that helps makes them feel comfortable.”

The most important thing in Jo’s work is the children’s safety – “checking that they are safe in their homes and with their families. Beyond this I aim to increase their understanding of what they have experienced, raise their awareness of their own emotional responses and help them to recognise their own strengths and talents. It’s so great when I get a breakthrough with a child, when they demonstrate what they have learnt or when a parent messages me and lets me know I have made a difference.”

It can be challenging work, Jo admits, but the challenges are not from the children. “The scale of family violence in New Zealand can feel quite overwhelming” she says. “Also time constraints can be challenging. I am allocated a certain number of sessions with them (by the Ministry of Justice funding model) and sometimes it’s just not enough.

The limited resources of the social sector are a frustration too. “Unfortunately there are limited options within the community for onward referrals for the children once I have come to the end of my time with them. Most services for children in Christchurch seem to be overstretched.  Many of the children I work with have supportive families or someone in their wider whanau who is a great role model and will make a really positive difference to their future well-being, but many - especially the boys - don’t. They demonstrate such vulnerability, kindness and empathy - these qualities should be celebrated as strengths by male role models in their lives.”

Despite the challenges and frustrations, Jo loves the work she does and names the best part of her job without hesitation - the children. “Every week I meet children who amaze me; it’s a privilege to spend time getting to know them. They all have great qualities and huge potential, and they make me feel very hopeful for the future.”