A woman badly beaten by her husband says her 5-year-old daughter saved her life by walking in and witnessing the attack.

It was at that moment she realised the danger she and her children were in - and that she had to get out of her dangerous and abusive marriage.

Kristen spoke to the Herald about her horrifying ordeal to raise awareness around family violence, particularly the impact it has on children.

Her name has been changed to protect her identity.

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She had married for seven years when the violent incident occurred.

It was the first time her husband, the father of her three children, had been physically violent, but looking back she could see she had been subjected to years of emotional and psychological abuse.

"I had no idea I was in an abusive relationship," she said.

"I knew my marriage was in trouble and I'd been working on trying to fix it for years - but I didn't think it was abusive."

Kristen's partner had an alcohol problem but blamed his addiction solely on her.

It was her fault he went out on benders, her fault he had affairs, her fault their marriage was in crisis.

"I took all of that, I believe in marriage and I was trying to do the right thing for my children," she said.

In the six months leading up to the brutal assault, their relationship worsened.

The yelling, berating, belittling and screaming was more frequent and she became fearful.

The first night he hit her was the last, and he only stopped when interrupted by their young daughter.

He had been drinking and passed out.

A text message came through on his phone from another woman and Kristen woke him to confront him.

He admitted it was a woman he had met online 18 months ago and the pair had been having an affair.

Kirsten became upset and told her husband she was leaving him.

"He sprang on me and started to punch the sh*t out of me," she said.

"It was crazy punching, he just didn't stop."

Kristen left her husband after he beat her. Only then did she realise that he had been abusing her for years. File photo / NZME
Kristen left her husband after he beat her. Only then did she realise that he had been abusing her for years. File photo / NZME

Kristen was holding his phone which cut into her chest as he punched her.

She threw it across the room to get him off her, which worked for a short time.

"I told him he was a psycho and I was taking the kids and he looked me in the eyes and said 'after what I've just done, you're going to come at me with that?'

"Then he pushed me to the ground and started punching me again."

Kristen's infant and young sons were in a room off the master bedroom and her daughter in the next room.

She tried to stay silent during the vicious attack so they would not wake and be upset - or worse.

But eventually she knew she was in trouble.

He wasn't stopping and she thought he was going to kill her.

"I wanted to keep my babies safe… but I decided I couldn't keep quiet," she said.

"I started to scream."

Seconds later her 5-year-old daughter Ella came running into the room.

"What are you doing?" she asked her father, her face white with terror.

He stopped, got off Kristen and picked up his daughter.

"He was back to being daddy again," she said.

Kristen called police and reported the assault.

She was then referred to Shine, an organisation that works with victims of family harm.

"When police said to me 'someone from Shine will ring you in the morning', I thought 'f**k, I need Shine…"

Kristen said looking back on her marriage, with the help of her Shine advocate, she finally realised the abuse she had been subjected to.

"I was sure domestic violence was not in 'my world'," she said.

"Even though I had been in an abusive marriage for seven years, it wasn't violent so I didn't realise it was abuse."

Kristen said she had no idea the impact abuse had on children, even when they were not being harmed, until her assault.

"My daughter saw half of one fight, then the police arrived," she said.

"She was so, so frightened when she came into the room, I'll never lose that.

"There are some kids that see this stuff every day in their world… it breaks my heart."

After working with Shine Kristen is now safe and happy.

Her kids see their father but she has moved on from her toxic marriage.

She shared her story in a bid to help other women save themselves, and their babies.

"That Shine number is not used enough," she said.

"You don't have to be beaten black and blue - I thought domestic violence was Jake the Muss stuff before this happened to me.

"People just need to talk about it more, be more aware."

Kristen supported Shine's annual Light It Orange campaign, raising almost $4000 for the charity to enable them to help more children living in abusive homes.

"This is the first of many years that I will Light It Orange because domestic abuse is everywhere; it is isolating and it is so dark and painful," she said.

"Knowledge, kindness and support is what we need to shine more light directly at this awful darkness."

Funds raised through the annual Light It Orange appeal in Auckland will support Shine's work with children who are traumatised by family violence.

Outside Auckland, donations will fund Shine's free domestic abuse helpline, which is available to adults and children experiencing abuse, or to anyone who suspects a friend, family member, colleague or neighbour needs help.

For more information on Shine's Light It Orange appeal, including how to get your workplace, school or group involved, click here.

Light It Orange - the facts

• According to police and support agencies, New Zealand has the worst recorded rate of family violence in the developed world.
• In 2016 police investigated 118,910 incidents of family violence, an increase of more than 8000 on 2015.
• One in three women in New Zealand will experience abuse in her lifetime, and the majority of those women will have children.
• Shine has advice on its website for what to do if you know or suspect someone is experiencing domestic violence – whether that person is an adult or a child.

DO YOU NEED HELP?

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:

Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633
Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843
It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 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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