Family violence: A survivor's story - 'Abuse is tiring'

On the surface, she had it all, but behind closed doors she was the victim of prolonged abuse. Photo / iStock
On the surface, she had it all, but behind closed doors she was the victim of prolonged abuse. Photo / iStock

• Today we are telling the story of real victims. Some of this content may be confronting and upsetting. Please take care.

She is one of the silent victims.

She is a European woman from a middle-class home. On the surface, she had it all - the luxury house, the gorgeous children, the professional high-profile and well-respected husband.

But behind closed doors she was the victim of prolonged abuse - physical, emotional, psychological and financial.


He hurt her in every way he could. But like many in her demographic - experts say white middle-class women are the least likely to report abuse - she kept her mouth shut and kept up appearances.

Until, finally, she'd had enough.

For decades she was one of the 80 per cent - minimum - of victims who do not report family violence.

She stayed for her kids. She stayed because he threatened her. She stayed because he had all the power, money and control.

Not anymore.

She now lives in a state house, takes benefits and is rebuilding her life. It's not easy. But the feeling of living without fear is worth it.

Today, in her own words, she shares her words of wisdom for survivors based on journal entries she started writing after she left her husband for the last time.

The Herald has agreed not to name this woman to protect her children.

A survivor's story

I would not wish what I have been through on anybody

Sometimes your home can feel like a prison. Mine did. It was a beautiful prison, but I was desperate to leave it. For me, a sense of isolation and despair was very real. I also had the responsibility of our children and their despair and needs at every level.

Abuse is tiring, exhausting and attacks your identity. It wearies the soul.

If you have left, if you are free, do not think this is your landing spot, it is your journey.

I've gone from education and lavish home to state support, from what looked like much to what looks like little, from employed to full-time caregiver. But I am rich.

All that evil needs to flourish is for people who can do good not to step in or speak up. It is my duty to speak up, to share with you how I survived.

I purposefully do not call you a victim because quite frankly most of you are absolute heroes and brave enough to stand up, speak out and ask for help for yourself and your children.

As a woman and a mother and a keen observer of life, I say one thing: hurt a mother and you hurt a child.

Do not rehash your story more than you need to. Decide what identity you want to foster - that of abused victim or that of overcoming hero. Do not be afraid to ask for help but find those who seem safe and practise trust slowly.

Abuse is cross-cultural, within all ethnicities, and sadly part of a human condition where love is absent and evil is allowed to fester and foster. Secrecy is a key to breeding more abuse.

If you choose to get out, then keeping your plan to yourself is essential in many cases if you feel your life or those of your children are at risk. Choose a trusted confident or agency and seek help to plan a strategy.

If you think you are in an abusive relationship, then you most likely are.

If you live with an abusive person, even they will have endearing qualities. Many who live with abusers will sing their praises and in a way, be enablers of abuse because they're in denial and choose the relationship or possessions or a myriad of other things over truth.

I believe in love. I believe in the sanctity of marriage and in vows. I believe in openness and forgiveness, but none of those things mean you ever need to trust again the one who has abused you.

Sorry is easy to say but if the actions don't match the words or the words don't match the actions then that's lip service and it's lies.

Abuse is often insidious and hidden behind layer upon layer of guises. Not all abuse is the Once Were Warriors-style of attack. Some abuse is steeped in secrecy, and abusers hide behind many veils of respectability.

White, educated and very dangerous - there are a huge number of chameleons with privilege and power mistreating those around them.

This is an uncomfortable subject. It is an unpleasant subject and one that many are happy to turn a blind eye to. But we must all listen. We must all support, listen to and stand alongside those who are vulnerable.

I am free. I chose to learn to live as a free woman again and that will take some time. What does freedom look like? I don't know. What does it feel like? I'm not so sure about that either.

There was no guidebook to take me through this terrifying and uncharted territory. I forged and pioneered my way through. And now, I hope my story will help you to do the same.

Courage and bravery and navigating uncharted waters are needed for this journey. Contain this thing and refuse to let it define you.

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
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisisline 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice:
• National Network of Stopping Violence:
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent.

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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.

- NZ Herald

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