Breakfast host on The Hits, columnist for nzherald.co.nz Life & Style.

Polly Gillespie: Growing up next door to family violence

"Welcome to New Zealand. We're green, friendly, 100 per cent pure and we kill our kids!"

It was mid "heydays" in New Zealand. Dad was driving us back from the shore. We'd been visiting Mum's brother in Takapuna. I was six. I remember Dad saying with a chuckle, "Oh, I'd better be careful, if I get in the wrong lane we'll end up in deepest darkest Ponsonby!"

Ponsonby was where a lot of Polynesian New Zealanders settled. Mum and Dad had built in the prosperous and trendy new suburb of Papatoetoe. We lived in a modern three-bedroom family home on the corner of Morris Ave and Cornwall Road.

FAMILY VIOLENCE: Read the series

When my parents built there it was very "white". As white as a polar bear soaked in Napisan. By the time I was six the place had begun changing.

People were drifting in from places like Ponsonby as houses were bought in inner Auckland suburbs and done up.

Rents went through the roof. So South Auckland became a multi-cultural part of Auckland that was fun to grow up in.

When I was six we had pilots living in the neighbouhood like the Harts. They seemed great fun, and I clearly recall Mum and Dad enjoying cocktails with them regularly.

Mum was a lightweight drinker and I well remember her tottering glamorously home from across the road in a slinky silver lame cocktail dress, high heels, and a large hollyhock stolen from someone else's garden.

There were local business people like the Claytons. Hard working people who owned the butchers at Hunters Corner. I'm sure they'd do more than a double take if they saw how Hunters Corner changed over the years. I doubt the Claytons would have known what a "tranny" was let alone imagined them on Hunters Corner.

We had people like my Dad, a business man/office worker. And then we had people like the man who lived next door. A bad man. A very bad man.

*Emily was my best friend. I loved her, and I loved her brother, Bobby.

For my fifth birthday Bobby gave me 50 cents and we went to the dairy and bought a king size block of chocolate. Bobby was my hero. I used to play with him and his sister every day. But I hated going into their house. To this day I cannot abide the smell of roast lamb cooking. It reminds me of that house. Of that man.

That man was an evil bastard. He was a fat, violent bully who kicked his dog, his children and his wife. Apparently Emily ended up with the head of a gang chapter. He was murdered, I believe.

I heard that Bobby went to jail. I hope his mother escaped. She and my mother had a pact that, at six years old, I wasn't aware of. If he - "The Monster" - started to beat her up, she would put a basket in the kitchen window as a signal to call her mother. She would come around and sort him out, until the next time he decided to start beating up his family.

My Mum spent a lot of evenings gazing out the kitchen window, waiting. Waiting to see the basket. I wonder now if it wouldn't have been better for Mum to have called the police.

But that's the problem, isn't it? We're Kiwis and we like to put on a face of respectability and civility. You are more likely to be murdered in this country under the age of three than at any time in your life. That's a shitty statistic. We are a country who beat each other sensless, kill children but would rather hide it under the welcome mat than have anyone know about it. Shame. Oh the shame.

I see people are planning marches for "Moko". I understand we are all angry about another child being murdered at the hands of dysfunctional animals, but where were we when those Moko needed us to alert the police or CYFs weeks before?

It's a bit like Mum calling the neighbour's mother instead of the police. We're worried about the wrong things. You should never be able to savagely torture and kill a child and get away with manslaughter, but are we not completely missing the point?

That's after the fact. We're getting angry about something that has happened instead of activating ourselves to make sure it doesn't happen again. But it keeps happening, and we keep getting angry, and we form Facebook mobs and cry out:

"Lynch them! Hang them! Skin them alive!"

That wont bring Moko back.

Are we spending too much time on victims and not enough on preventing all of this horror from happening? Should we be going into homes and hauling out children at risk despite the political unsoundness of it? Should we be phoning the cops and dobbing in our neighbours more? Should we be resourcing educators instead of coroners?

I'm frustrated and angry that our children are being murdered. I'm baffled and bewildered by women who stay with dangerous men who are likely to harm their kids.

I'm not even going to entertain for a minute that a woman has no clue that the man she's with can be a psycho. I'm outraged. You're outraged. Everyone on Facebook is outraged but...

It's already happened. Whether the mutants who did it are charged with manslaughter, murder, are hung drawn and quartered or shot by firing squad, we are dealing with our outrage, not the secrets in the underbelly of our society.

You take a kid out of home because you fear for their safety, and you're wrong. Is it not easier to say "sorry, we were wrong" than to stand by a grave as a tiny white coffin is lowered into the earth? Maybe we need to worry more about our general apathy and lack of responsibility, rather than who fries for the crime, because by then it's a moot point. By then, a child is dead and they ain't coming back.

I wish Mum had called the cops instead of our neighbour's mother, but I suppose no one wanted to make a fuss and get anyone in trouble. It was easier for the neighbour to sport a black eye and have a man bring home the bacon and the lamb roast, than have him carted off to prison for being the brutal evil thug that he was.

To my neighbour, a husband and father, when I was six I knew you were a bad, broken man. You ruined your children's lives. You had one job and you screwed it up.

We need to stop these guys before they kill. Because what we do afterwards does not bring people back from the dead.

*Names have been changed

If you're in danger NOW:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you
• Run outside and head for where there are other people
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you
• Take the children with you
• Don't stop to get anything else
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

• Women's Refuge: Free national crisisline operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisisline 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence: www.nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz

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Take a stand - NZ is #BetterThanThis

New Zealand has the worst rate of family violence in the developed world. One in three women will be subjected to physical or sexual violence from a partner at some point in their lives.

Take a stand. Change your social media profile picture to demand that we are better than this. Right-click on this image below (or press and hold on your mobile device) to save, then upload to your social profiles. Or you can download the image here.

- NZME.

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Breakfast host on The Hits, columnist for nzherald.co.nz Life & Style.

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