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.

Ambulance officers found the toddler lying on the floor of his bedroom with significant injuries - naked and cold.

He was deeply unconscious and breathing only three or four times per minute.

He was transferred from his local hospital straight to Starship in Auckland, where he underwent emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his brain.


He was just two years and nine months old and someone had hurt him so badly he was almost dead.

It was agony for his grandparents Sheryl and Adrian to see the wee boy like that.

They were confused, angry, overwhelmed and lost.

They had so many questions, were being questioned, and they had no one to turn to.

And then, the phone rang.

"It's Gail from Victim Support," a kind voice on the line said.

Sheryl and Adrian spoke to the Herald about their experience to raise awareness around Victim Support.

For legal reasons their last name cannot be published, nor their grandson's name.

The little boy survived, despite horrendous head injuries that mean he needs full time supervision and care,and now lives with them.

His abuser was his mother's then-boyfriend who was later jailed for bashing the child almost to death.

Sheryl and Adrian, sitting on the custom-built cot the now 9-year-old grandchild sleeps in, have nothing but praise for Victim Support. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Sheryl and Adrian, sitting on the custom-built cot the now 9-year-old grandchild sleeps in, have nothing but praise for Victim Support. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It was a scenario that Sheryl and Adrian had never imagined could happen to them, to their beautiful grandson.

"Back then, we didn't know if he was going to survive or not, he was hooked up to machines and being monitored 24 hours a day," Adrian told the Herald.

"It was extremely scary, there were lots of tears, lots of anger and confusion - how did this happen, why did this happen, all those sorts of things go through your mind.

"I wouldn't wish that sort of thing on anyone."

"He was 2 years 9 months, why would somebody do it? It didn't make sense," Sheryl added.

"You hear about it on the news but you don't realise the impact until it happens and it's horrific."

When the call came from Victim Support Sheryl couldn't comprehend how they could help.

"It was like who's this person? But I found I was just talking to her," she said.

"She just said 'I'm here, just talk. I've just heard.'

"She didn't ask me how we were doing or anything like that, she just said 'talk'.

"More than anything, I couldn't believe what had happened - so she was kind of like a sounding board of letting things out - what, why, how."

Sheryl arrived in Auckland with only the clothes on her back and her handbag, so Victim Support was able to help her get what she needed.

The regular phone calls from Gail were also a comfort.

"It was just so scary and you're on autopilot, you can't stop and think about yourself, you just keep going," she said.

"When I got those little phone calls from Gail, that was my time to say how I was feeling, I felt safe with Gail.

"She said she'd keep ringing me until I told her I didn't want her to."

Adrian was thankful for Gail too.

"It was a really difficult time for us too because we were separated, Sheryl was up in Auckland and I was here going to work; we still had bills we needed to pay," he said.

"I think they provided a little bit of support while I wasn't there.

"And everything happened really quickly, so it helped having someone navigate unknown territory."

Their grandson was eventually moved to a rehabilitation unit - but would never recover fully from his injuries.

He now lives with Adrian and Sheryl, who have to monitor him 24/7 as he suffers severe seizures and other health issues.

"He has extremely high needs," said Adrian.

"He's missing half his brain - he's quite remarkable in what he can do but the ongoing problems will be there for life."

Sheryl and Adrian, who had no idea what Victim Support did until their baby grandson was fighting for his life after an assault. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Sheryl and Adrian, who had no idea what Victim Support did until their baby grandson was fighting for his life after an assault. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Getting the boy out of Starship was just the beginning of the battle - his grandparents then had to contend with a police investigation, two trials for the abuser and numerous parole hearings.

"If Victim Support hadn't been there I wouldn't have got through it," Sheryl said.

"For me, they were the lifeline.

"I was absolutely terrified, I didn't want to go to court, I didn't want to do any of those things and Julie [a second Victim Support worker attached to the family] helped me get through that.

"Every step of the process, no matter how tiny it is it seems huge to someone who's never been through it - we just wanted to focus on our grandson; we'd been through so much, I didn't think we could make it through a court case as well."

Adrian said the court process was foreign and "quite difficult to navigate".

"Particularly in our case where there were two trials, so we had to go through the whole process twice - that was pretty harrowing.

"It meant time away from home, time away from our grandson and it's unbelievably stressful.

"The role that Victim Support play, they minimise that impact on you.

"They lay everything on so you've got somewhere to stay, you get food, they help you through the process so when it's your turn to give evidence, they're there and they provide someone to sit next to you even.

"They hold your hand right through, and it's fantastic."

The Other Side of Crime: Victim Support statistics. / Video by Nathan Meek

The couple knew of Victim Support before their grandson was harmed, but didn't really know what they did.

"Just having people around who can help and are willing to help is a godsend," Adrian said.

Sheryl added: "I don't think people understand it properly until they need it".

"In my opinion, if we didn't have Victim Support it would make it a lot harder.

"A lot of people might think they will intrude in your life but they don't - they let you decide.

"Don't be afraid to ask for help, if you need to, talk to them - they won't judge you, they will just be there for you, it doesn't matter what walk of life you are, they will just listen."

The couple have never met Gail, their friendly phone volunteer, but spent a lot of time with Julie as they went through the judicial process.

"They provide the victims an outlet to have some support because everything seems to be geared towards the offender," said Adrian.

"They move the ball a bit more into the victim's court which empowers them.

"I think that's really, really important. Victims need to be more empowered and feel like they've got some rights because through the judicial process it doesn't seem that way."

The couple shared their story to help raise awareness around the important work Victim Support does with Kiwis, and wanted to encourage people to donate to ensure they could keep volunteers working.

"They need all the help they can get to keep doing the job that they're doing," said Adrian.

"It would be an even more scary place without them."


To donate to Victim Support click here.

To find out more about becoming a volunteer or for more information, visit www.victimsupport.org.nz.


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.