How do we truly break the cycle of family violence? 

This is the question Julie Hart, long at the helm of Women’s Refuge in Hawke’s Bay, has repeatedly pondered.

When she began working at the Refuge in Hastings in 1994, the focus was firmly on helping women and children who were victims of domestic violence.

“But often victims will go back to their situation and the cycle happens all over again because we have done nothing to help the abuser.” 

Although there are programmes in place for adult men who have been long-time offenders, Julie says the refuge’s work needs to extend to younger men, in particular, by stepping in and preventing them from becoming offenders.

“In 2022, we have funding to work with younger men and also men that have themselves been the victims of domestic violence. This is a very hidden issue,” she says. “Men don’t often talk about it for fear of being laughed at by friends but we need to support them.”

Julie joined Women’s Refuge in 1994 at a time when the organisation was often laughed off as being run by a bunch of “hairy-legged lesbian men-haters”. 

“It is so much better now,” she says, “but in Hawke’s Bay there is still a boys’ club we can’t always access.”

In 2019 Julie won a prestigious Zonta “Woman of Achievement” award. She admires female public figures such as Helen Clark and Jacinda Ardern and enjoys relating to other Hawke’s Bay business women.

But right now Covid is the biggest challenge. 

“We are working hard to ensure that despite the pandemic, victims of domestic violence know they can leave their home if they have to; know they won’t get arrested; and that the Police will help them.

“No one should ever feel trapped in their home with an abuser.”

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