Hundreds of women and children who have been affected by family and domestic violence will be acknowledged this Mother’s Day with the launch of a new charitable initiative designed to show support and raise awareness of the issue.
More than 5,000 locally grown flower stems will be arranged into bouquets by over 50 florists from around the country. A flower industry initiative will see the bouquets and glass vases gifted from Feel Good With Flowers to those seeking sanctuary in Women’s Refuges throughout New Zealand.
According to the latest figures, New Zealand has one of the highest rates of domestic violence globally, and women are disproportionately more likely to experience family violence at 2.8%of all adults. Of those assaulted in family violence incidents, around 23% suffered injuries, with 15% requiring treatment for either physical, mental or emotional health issues.
The floral arrangements, which will take an estimated 200 hours to design and distribute nationwide are valued at more than $50,000 and will see each mother sheltering at a refuge receive her own vase and bouquet of bright, seasonal blooms.
Women’s Refuge spokesperson Susan Barker says last year there were over 50,000 women and children referred to the service and she estimates there will be 440 women and children spending this Mother’s Day in a refuge.
Barker says the simple gift of flowers will be a welcome “pick me up” for these women struggling to create a new life for themselves and their children.
“I think it's a wonderful thing because I know a lot of the mums feel a mixture of negative emotions when they come into a refuge. They feel bad for taking their kids out of home even though it wasn’t a great environment, they feel as though in some way they have failed their children.
“This is going to be a great pick me up because in the long run they are doing the best possible thing for their children and the flowers help to show that there will be brighter days ahead,” she says.
“At the refuges we are able to provide the basics like clothing and food. But a gift such as this goes beyond the everyday items we all need, it honours these mothers and treats them to something special just for themselves. It’s also great for the kids to see their mum recognised and receive something on Mother’s Day.
“A lot of the time the children are quite protective of their mums as they’ve seen them go through such a hard time. Often their mother has been the person standing in between them and someone dishing out some abuse, so now they will get to see something good happen for their mum. They will see her celebrated on Mother’s Day when they are not in a position to do it themselves and it will make the children so happy to see their mum happy,” she says.
Feel Good with Flowers spokesperson Rebecca Jones says while Mother’s Day is one of the busiest times of the year for florists, the community initiative is considered a priority for them.
She says the initiative was chosen to show solidarity for the thousands of New Zealanders impacted by domestic violence every year.
Jones says academic research has shown that those exposed to natural settings such as gardens, flowers, or green spaces can have beneficial emotional and mental health benefits and positively impact a person's psychological, social, physical and cognitive well-being.
“Feel Good with Flowers hopes to shed more light on the family violence issues that New Zealand women are experiencing year-round at the hands of their partners or family members,” says Jones.
“Mother’s Day should be a time to show respect, honour and love towards the women that create and raise us. Women who are seeking protection from Women’s Refuge have not been respected, honoured and loved the way they should be. Our industry wants to show solidarity and that we care about all mother’s. We also want other women who may be experiencing domestic violence to know that there is a place they can turn to. Women’s Refuge does such important work for our communities and this needs to be recognised,” she says.
Psychologist Sara Chatwin says Mother’s Day is the one day where we recognise the contribution that mothers/step mothers, adoptive and mother-like figures have on our lives.
She says a study by Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Rutgers explored the link between flowers and life satisfaction in a 10-month study of participants' behavioural and emotional responses to receiving flowers. The results show that flowers are a natural and healthful moderator of moods.
Chatwin says the study showed Flowers have an immediate impact on happiness. All study participants expressed "true" or "excited" smiles upon receiving flowers.
The study also showed Flowers have a long-term positive effect on moods. Specifically, study participants reported feeling less depressed, anxious and agitated after receiving flowers, and demonstrated a higher sense of enjoyment and life satisfaction.
Chatwin says the research also confirmed that flowers make intimate connections. The presence of flowers led to increased contact with family and friends.
“Most people might think that flowers make us happy, and this study shows that science backs that notion up! We are happier with flowers in our lives and our emotional wellbeing is increased!
The study also explored where in their homes people display flowers. The arrangements were placed in areas of the home that are open to visitors - such as foyers, living rooms and dining rooms - suggesting that flowers are a symbol for sharing3.
“The researchers commented that having flowers in rooms made the space more inviting, appealing and welcoming. The lead researcher also suggested a positive emotional response from those entering space where there were flowers.”
Chatwin says an initiative such as this sends a powerful message to those mothers seeking sanctuary in a refuge that they are not alone.
“Flowers are such a visual expression of emotion. They can instantly lift spirits and show the recipients that they are loved or valued or thought of. They're a flattering gift and a way of saying so much without actually saying a word.”
Chatwin says flowers send positive messages of being honoured, appreciated, cherished, understood and not forgotten.
“Flowers are beautiful and natural and a bit that resonates for many as thoughtfulness and kindness. The act of giving is a selfless act and thus children can learn those very important lessons when they see others model that behaviour,” she says.