Girls as young as 14 are becoming slaves in their own home, a welfare group in Hamilton says.
Hamilton Abuse Intervention Project (HAIP) staff said the women they worked with were becoming younger and younger.
“We are working with girls who are literally slaves in their own homes,” project manager Lila Jones said.
Her comment comes ahead of Tuesday’s White Ribbon Day – the international day for the elimination of violence against women.
Project service manager Julie Pullman said entering into a sexual relationship at the age of 13 or 14 opened up more avenues for a girl to be abused, the Waikato Times reported.
“Young girls can be naive and don’t really know what an abusive relationship looks like,” she said.
“So they can easily slip into it and not know how to get out. We are certainly finding that in our youth programme.”
Pullman said both young women and men needed to be taught about abusive relationships while they were still in school.
“A lot of it should be about self-esteem. Teaching them to value themselves,” she said.
“I think parents are floundering really to know how to empower their own children.”
Hamilton police have also noticed an increasing prevalence of young women becoming victims of their partners’ violence.
In an incident last weekend a 22-year-old woman was allegedly kicked in the stomach by her much older partner.
She told police she was then strangled with a knotted piece of cloth before losing consciousness.
When she regained her senses, she ran and hid under the house before later fleeing with her enraged partner in pursuit. She fled to a nearby house for help, before her partner dragged her away. She managed to break free again and ran to the safety of a relative’s home.
Head of the Hamilton Family Safety Team, Sergeant Alan McGlade, said this incident was just one of several police were called to every week.
“Around 45 per cent of homicides in this country over recent years have been linked to family violence and last year Hamilton police attended 4441 family violence events,” he said. NZPA