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

Family violence: 'I will leave him - I'm saying right now I am better than this'

Today is the last day of We're Better Than This, a series by Anna Leask which launches a campaign addressing family violence. New Zealand has the highest rate of family violence in the developed world but only about 20 per cent is reported to authorities. We will keep encouraging victims and abusers to speak up and ask for help and for everyone to be more aware of family violence.
"I will leave him... I'm saying right now that I am better than this." Photo / iStock
"I will leave him... I'm saying right now that I am better than this." Photo / iStock

"Right now, this moment, I'm smiling. I have butterflies in my stomach. I'm really looking forward to the rest of my life now. I feel powerful.

"I will leave him... I'm saying right now that I am better than this."

These are the words of a woman who has been living in fear. She has been physically and psychologically abused. She has been threatened, isolated, stalked and even cyber-bullied.

But this week, she decided she had had enough. She is leaving him. She has finally told her family about the abuse and they have a plan in place to get her out safely and keep her safe.

SPEAK UP: SHARE YOUR STORY HERE

Her decision came after reading the stories of other victims and abusers in the Herald family violence series We're Better Than This.

"I am so done," she said.

"I have woken up every morning this week and reached for my phone to read the Herald. It's like I'm obsessed. But here's why ..."

She met up with her first love after not seeing him for many years.

Over the next few days she spent time with him but decided a relationship with him was not something she wanted at the time. He did not take that well.

"He lost it. I went to the spare room to go to bed. He came in a little while later, woke me up with name-calling, swearing.

"There was a knife in that room. He found that and used it to threaten me. He grabbed my throat and pushed me and pinned me down while screaming in my face. He would not let me leave that room for hours."

Later she went to police and got a trespass order. But days later he apologised, sending her a message through a mutual friend.

Several months later they ran into each other and started to talk about what had happened.

"We now are together, living together," she said.

"He has managed to isolate me from most of my friends. When I do rebel and see them, he will drive past their house to check I am really there.

"He will go through my phone, check messages and emails, he will verbally abuse me.

"The arguments we have are so pathetic. He will even go to our neighbours, my friend and discuss our problems. Then when I see these people I am left to defend myself."

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She said he blamed her for all of his issues and insecurities. She felt suffocated by him and decided this week she deserved better.

In an email to the Herald she said: "I just wanted you to know you have changed my life ... I just wanted to speak up."

He has not hit her for some time but the abuse has escalated in other ways.

" ... plenty of raised fists, the verbal abuse and psychological abuse. He'll stand in front of my car if I want to go out and see my friends alone. He texts me every day about 10-15 times. If I don't answer a call he will call 6-8 times. He is obsessed."

In the past he has bullied her into staying, making her feel worthless and isolated.

"I have stayed because he has said no one else would be with me, put up with what he puts up with, that no one would love me like him," she said.

"He says he will stop drinking. He convinces me he knows what's going on isn't right and he wants to change - him changing - it won't happen."

She shared her story in the hope it would reach other women, encourage them to leave abusive relationships or seek help to make their lives safer.

This woman is one of many people - including some male victims of family violence - who have shared their stories this week.

Throughout the week the number of calls to Women's Refuge, Shine and other help agencies have spiked. We've heard from people who are reaching out to members of their family or friends, concerned they are in a dangerous relationship.

At Shine the helpline phones were "going crazy". After a live chat on Thursday featuring their men's stopping violence programmes, manager Aaron Steedman said the helpline was "particularly busy".

"There were phone calls inquiring about [the] men's programme, friends calling on behalf of their friends," he said.

This week Tauranga Women's Refuge manager Angela Warren-Clark said the safe houses in the region were all full over the weekend.

"We think it's something to do with the [Herald] campaign that is happening at the moment ... it's very busy."

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

How to hide your visit

If you are reading this information on the Herald website and you're worried that someone using the same computer will find out what you've been looking at, you can follow the steps at the link here to hide your visit. Each of the websites above also have a section that outlines this process.

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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