Each year thousands of New Zealanders are affected by crime, involved in accidents or impacted by sudden and traumatic events. Victim Support are there 24/7 to help and guide people through their darkest hours. This week, we speak to people whose lives were turned upside down by crime, and helped back from the brink by dedicated Victim Support staff. The Other Side of Crime is a campaign to help raise awareness and funds for this crucial victim service.
With a trial looming for the man who subjected her to significant sexual abuse for most of her childhood, Charlotte needed all the support she could get.
She had a wonderful family who were right there at her side, but she needed someone else - someone to listen, to talk her down when things seemed too hard, someone who wouldn't judge her and help her keep perspective and calm.
That voice, that listening ear came from her Victim Support volunteer.
Charlotte - not her real name as she cannot legally be identified - was two when her stepfather began sexually abusing her.
It only stopped when she was 15 and found the courage to speak up about what he had been doing to her - and her sisters.
But it wasn't until 2013 when she was an adult, married with her own children, that she was ready to go to the police.
"That's when Victim Support came into my life," she said.
"When I decided to take him to court and make him accountable.
"Until then, I didn't have a clue what Victim Support did, I'd heard of them but I didn't even know they were available to me."
Charlotte spoke regularly to her support volunteer on the phone and said that helped her out of some dark and scary places.
"I felt really safe, this person on the end of the phone was empathetic, she listened to me, she gave me really practical coping advice.
"To be honest, Victim Support were the first service that were consistent, I'd been referred to a rape service but I never heard from them.
"As a victim, you just don't have the stamina or fortitude to chase people up and get them to do their job."
Charlotte shared her story with her support volunteer and felt understood, heard.
She was also guided through the prosecution process, which can be lengthy and complex.
"I'd only ever been to court once before to support someone, I had no idea how it all worked," she said.
"Victim Support were amazing, they were like an advocate, they were my voice when I felt I was voiceless."
Charlotte had to travel across the country to attend her stepfather's trial - something she stressed about.
She worried about how she would afford petrol, accommodation and food.
But Victim Support were able to help her arrange to cover many of those costs as she qualified under their financial assistance scheme.
"They were pretty much like a light beacon for me," she said.
"I had two years waiting for court, feeling sick, stressing, tormenting myself thinking about it.
"There were times I had suicidal ideations, it was a pretty black place of despair and there were times that I thought 'I can't do this'."
Days before the trial Charlotte almost pulled out - she felt it would be too hard to give evidence, she wanted to run away and hide.
"I reached out to Victim Support and they were incredible, it sounds like a cliche but they were like the life jacket that I needed when I was treading water.
"I felt like I was drowning, I couldn't do things, I couldn't function."
Charlotte is now helping other victims of crime and says her experience with Victim Support inspired her.
"Victim Support probably saved my life," she said.
"They were like an anchor for me, something I knew was going to be constant, they cared.
"Because of that amazing, positive experience I wanted to give something back - I feel really passionate about that and really honoured to be there for people in their time of need and empower them and especially to let them know 'you will survive this'
"It's my thank you."
Charlotte encouraged people to support the service which helped her so much in her personal journey.
"It's a bit like health insurance isn't it - you don't need it until you really need it," she said.
"It's so important to support Victim Support now so if you need them, they will be there."
VICTIM SUPPORT - HOW TO HELP
To donate to Victim Support click here.
To find out more about becoming a volunteer or for more information, visit www.victimsupport.org.nz.
WHAT IS VICTIM SUPPORT
Victim Support is an independent incorporated society that provides a free 24/7 community response to help victims of serious crime and trauma.
Hundreds of volunteers provide emotional and practical support, information, referral to other support services and advocacy for the rights of victims.
This support helps victims find strength, hope and safety in the face of grief and trauma at what may be the worst time of their life.