New Zealand has the highest rate of family violence in the developed world but only about 20 per cent is reported to authorities. This month, the Herald launched the We're Better Than This campaign in a bid to raise awareness and encourage victims and abusers to ask for help. Today we speak to a man who has abused his partner for almost 20 years and desperately wants to change his, and her, life.
For 20 years he treated her with "hate and hurt". Then she left him and he "woke up".
Now he is seeking help and while he knows it will never repair the damage he has caused, he hopes it will make him a better man.
The man contacted the Herald after reading stories about family violence in the We're Better Than This series that ran last month, admitting he needed to get help and revealing details of his abuse.
"I'm not going to dress this up. I am an abuser and I need help," he said at at the time.
It's to the point where she now sleeps with her handbag around her, her shoes on, fully clothed.
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I hate that I've caused this... You must think I'm a right prick."
The Herald has agreed not to name the man to protect his partner's privacy. He met her when was in his early 20s and is now 42.
"Really truly she is the only person in my life yet I find myself treating her with abuse and hurt and hate," he said.
"We are both walking on egg shells.. It starts with me. I have to change. It's a must.
"My lady needs a peaceful violent-free life, she deserves it. For me - I really need help to break the cycle. I know my behaviour is appalling and am making daily efforts to keep my behaviour in check... keep hands to myself.
His awakening came too late. She left before he sought professional help.
"One week ago my darling said she was 'off to do shopping' but instead I got a text that she was now gone and staying at a refuge, that her cell number would be different from that text on," he said on May 31.
"So I've done the damage. I've made my bed now got to lie in it," he said.
It was not the first time she had left, but he hoped it would be the last.
"I'm not naive... I truly many times before then expected her to not return and she did. This time she found her strength and did what's good and right for her.
"I love her very very much but understand it's me with the problem."
I need to try and fix what I've broken... Your article has woken me up. I hate myself and the way I've treated my lady.
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Since she left he has approached Shine and is set to start a stopping violence programme specifically for men.
"Although my lady has gone I need to fix my temper and impulse issues regardless," he said.
"I would love to see her walk in the door, there is nothing I want more in this world at the moment but my heart knows the damage has been done. She is a beautiful, intelligent woman with the most giving warm heart and deserves to be treated as such.
He completed a stopping violence course a few years ago, but said he needed more help as the years went on. He didn't seek it.
Recently his relationship with his partner came udner additional pressure because he was unemployed meaning the couple could not afford to pay rent and had to leave their home.
When he first contacted the Herald he had spent six nights in a row fighting with and abusing his partner.
"...I've failed her miserably... We have no money, assets, family or friends. We are both equally estranged from our families and really only have each other," he said.
"My (partner) has no one and I'm the cause... I do feel for her, I really do."
Like many men in his position, he has never been held accountable for his behaviour.
"I'm lucky that over the years my lady has never once reported me to police," he said.
"I know my behavior is wrong and I mistreat the one and only person close to me in my life... All she has ever wanted was to be a priority in my life and be supported and loved."
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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