Editorial: Helping people living in fear

By Katie Shevlin

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Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

Before I came to New Zealand from the UK I had no idea of the family violence statistics in this country. NZME's series on family violence that ran last week has had a lasting effect on me.

It was, at times, shocking. The stories of violence that emerged from the dark shadows of Kiwi homes - and it was all corners of society - made it evident that we really don't know what goes on behind closed doors.

It got me thinking about what it would feel like to keep a secret like that. Not being able to tell those closest to you about the fear creeping into your daily life, making you scared to be in your own home. It was tough to read, so I can't even begin to imagine actually living it.

I find it hard to put myself in the shoes of someone trapped in an abusive relationship, and the series changed a preconception I wasn't even aware I had - that it is a victim's lack of strength first and foremost that causes a situation like that to endure.

Hearing from victims and abusers last week, I realised it's not that simple.

It may be a case of hoping that an abusive incident is a one-off. Convincing yourself that they just had too much to drink, it won't happen again, that they're sorry ... But then it happens again, and again, and before you know it you're a long way down the rabbit hole and it's not easy to climb back out.

The real strength is in living through that nightmare and coming out the other side.

The stories of men and women making the decision to leave their abusive relationships as a result of reading the series - finally saying "Enough is enough, I'm better than this" - are really incredible.

But many violent relationships are still hidden in the shadows and there they will stay.

I'm not about to offer a solution, there isn't a simple one. All I know is that no one should live in fear of the key turning in the front door.

The series brought the issue of family violence to the table, and the conversation must continue.

The people saved by the realisation that they don't have to live like that, and those who become aware they need help to stop hurting the ones they love, makes the discussion worth having.

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