Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Breaking the child abuse cycle

Survivors of child abuse have spoken out about their lifelong struggles. Photo / iStock
Survivors of child abuse have spoken out about their lifelong struggles. Photo / iStock

Survivors of child abuse have spoken out about their lifelong struggles, with one woman realising just as she was about to give her toddler "a boot" how important it is to break the cycle of violence.

The survivors spoke to the Herald this week following a two-day series on child abuse in New Zealand. The series was centred around the Kahui twins, who would have turned 10 on Monday had they not been murdered.

Read more here:

61 little names on NZ's roll of dishonour - 2008 deaths
NZ 'doing bugger all' to fix one of worst child abuse rates in world, says doctor
Kahui tragedy: 'When he took his final breath, he smiled'
Kahui twins: Chris and Cru - the fatal 24 hours

The Herald revealed that since Chris and Cru died, aged 90 days, 61 other children have died as a result of non-accidental injuries in New Zealand. Of those, at least half of those little people died at the hands of a parent or caregiver.

The stories prompted people who were abused as children to share their own stories. They say the abuse they suffered at the hands of their parents or caregivers has had a lasting effect, but they are determined not to put their children through the same pain and suffering.

"Growing up in 50s and 60s with an abusive father was hard for me. I often thought I must have been a horrible child," one woman revealed.

"I would runaway a lot, only to be brought back by the police and then get beaten again. I would stay out late because I hated going home,."

The woman, who did not want to be identified, said she would go "anywhere but home".

If she got home late she would be beaten, so she stayed away as much as possible.

"Some nights I would sleep in the long grass outside our home (or) in my aunty's laundry ... I would stay at friends' homes if their parents let me," she said.

"These beatings were a constant horror in our house, not only to myself, but to my siblings, and especially to our mother."

She went to live with an older sibling and had her first child at 15. Sadly, that baby became sick and died when she was 10 months old.

The woman went on to have other children.

She said reading about the 61 children killed in the last decade brought back memories of her childhood.

"I am saddened by what is happening to our babies. We all know that this has to stop. The cycle needs to be broken," she said.

"I say this because when my son was about 18 months old, he did something little that annoyed me and I found myself lifting up my foot to kick him."I was horrified as I realised what I was about to do. I stopped mid-air, put my foot down and cried as I picked up my baby. No, I did not hurt him.

"The horror of that day of what I nearly did, shocked me into the reality that I 'broke the cycle' that was my horror.

My memories of my father and what he did to me, my mother and my siblings, scared the crap out of me and the thought that I nearly became like him.

"It never ever happened again, because I made sure of that. The shock helped change my attitude, and my life."The woman decided to share her story in a bid to get through to others who had childhoods similar to hers.

"From that day on, my and our lives changed for the better. I hope that my story may help others know that you can break the cycle."

Another woman, now 29, revealed she had been sexually abused when she was 4 years old. She was sleeping in her bed when it happened.

"A small sleeping girl ... my innocence taken," she said.

"The effects of child abuse mentally and physically hurt me for life. I can't sleep, I get nightmares, I've cut myself, tried to overdose - the list goes on.

"The pain never goes away."Now a mother herself, she wanted to let other survivors know that they were in control of what happened in their lives, and to their own children.

"I am now a mother of one. I am still struggling but being the best damn mother I can be," she said.

"I am a adult survivor of child abuse ... All I know it has 100 per cent affected my life - drugs, alcohol, the works.

"Every day is a new battle (but) I now choose to be in control and look for the positives in everyday life."

- NZ Herald

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