Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Tauranga woman speaks out on domestic abuse

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A Tauranga woman who suffered harrowing physical and sexual abuse then endured a "horrific" ordeal in court is still encouraging others to seek justice. PHOTO/FILE
A Tauranga woman who suffered harrowing physical and sexual abuse then endured a "horrific" ordeal in court is still encouraging others to seek justice. PHOTO/FILE

A Western Bay woman who suffered harrowing physical and sexual abuse then endured a "horrific" ordeal in court is still encouraging others to seek justice.

She has spoken out about her experience in the hope that her story will inspire other women in abusive relationships to seek help.

"I've got to live it. It's not easy but I am a survivor," she told the Bay of Plenty Times.

The man responsible for the abuse, which included rape and severe beatings, was jailed but has since been released.

The woman, who did not want to be identified, said her struggles continued after her tormentor was convicted.

In the years that followed, she suffered further mental and physical abuse in her relationships.

A few weeks ago, she decided "enough is enough" and took her life back with the help of Tauranga Women's Refuge.

She hopes her story will encourage other women in abusive relationships to seek help and hold their attackers accountable through the justice system.

She describes the court process as "horrific".

"You not only have the perpetrator in the same room as you. You have his lawyer.

"But if you don't go through that process it doesn't stop. I needed to make him accountable, and it did make him accountable. I am not going to carry shame for him."

Despite the ordeal she still recommends other women seek justice.

"It was not easy but it is the only way to stop the perpetrator."

She still carries the scars and is learning to cope with panic attacks and anxiety.

"On the television, I would see someone wearing the same clothes as him [her abuser] or I would smell aftershave he would wear.

"Even going into the supermarket [is difficult].

"I can't shower without leaving my underwear on, when I am naked I feel too exposed."

She is slowly rebuilding her life and now hopes to find her own accommodation and focus on some of the positives in her life, especially her grandchildren.

"I want to be a survivor."

Tauranga Women's Refuge manager Angela-Warren Clark said one in three women in New Zealand would suffer abuse in their lifetime.

"Men need to take responsibility for their actions and be a part of the solution and solving the problems," she said.

White Ribbon Day, November 25, is an international day aiming to end men's violence against women.

"Men need to put their hands up and say they will not be violent against their partners."

Mrs Warren-Clark said 92 per cent of domestic violence in New Zealand was a male offender against women and children.

"I want to be made redundant rather than working with the devastating effects of domestic violence."

Tauranga's St Columba Presbyterian Church will take action against family violence this weekend.

The church is inviting the community to a morning tea on Sunday to plant white ribbon stakes.

"We want to make a statement to our community that family violence is not okay," says Reverend Donald Hegan.

Do you need help?

• Tauranga Women's Refuge: 0800 86 733843

• Shakti Women's Refuge: 0800 742 584

• Bay of Plenty Sexual Assault Services: 0800 227 233

White Ribbon key statistics:

• One in three women will experience partner violence at some point in their lives

• Less than 20 per cent of abuse cases are reported

• About 3500 convictions are recorded against men each year for assaults on women

• On average, 14 women a year are killed by their partners or ex-partners

• Police attend more than 100,000 family violence incidents a year - one every five minutes

• Family violence accounts for half of all reported serious crime

- Bay of Plenty Times

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