John (not his real name) took his first steps on the day he turned one, as he took his first wobbly steps towards his father.

While this sounds like a picture perfect moment, let's zoom out for a minute. As we pan away from the small boy carefully putting one foot in front of the other and slowly gaining momentum, we see the surroundings.

This isn't a first birthday party in a house or a park, but in a prison.

The father, reaching out his arms to help steady the small boy, is in prison overalls serving time at Mount Eden prison.

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The father, reaching out his arms to help steady the small boy, is in prison overalls serving time at Mount Eden prison.

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Twenty years later, and many of John's memories are based on his father, either in prison or out.

"I didn't have friends come over much, because I didn't want them to see what it was like. Either Dad was home and he and Mum would be fighting, physically as well as verbally, or he would be in prison and I didn't like explaining where he was, why I didn't have a dad at home like my friends did."

Despite the violence in his home, John has a good relationship with both his parents now.

They are who they are, I can't change that. I love them, but that doesn't mean I think their choices were good ones.

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Right now, John's dad is back in prison. "This is his longest lag yet, he's been in for nine-and-a-half years already for home invasion and meth charges, and won't be out until 2020."

Prison and violence have been part of John's life for as long as he can remember, as have drugs.

"Dad has been into meth a lot, it was always around us. I have seen adults using it around me for years. It's just part of my life really."

Experts tell us children growing up in this type of life often repeat the cycle, so perhaps it is no surprise to hear John himself has spent time on the wrong side of the justice system. "I got in with the wrong crowd when I was a teenager.

"I was fine when I lived out in the country, I'm a country kid, it was moving to town that got me into trouble."

Without a male role model at home, John has struggled to find direction for a while.

"I made some bad choices which landed me in court.

"When I had to go to court, I was walking in and I realised I could end up like my dad.

"I don't want that. I want to stay out of prison."

With that plan in mind, John has been taking steps over the past year to change his future and to move his life into a different direction. He is studying dairy farming, gaining qualifications at a steady pace.

"I have also been working with a counsellor and with the team at Tutaki Youth Inc, getting an understanding of what my options are, what support is available to me and how to deal with things differently."

Talking about his experience is part of the process he says.

"By talking about this, hopefully it helps other people realise the long term damage family violence and drugs can bring. Not just on one person, but a whole family.

"Kids as much as adults."

John says he recognises that having grown up surrounded by violence, it would be easy to use his fists instead of words at times.

"I will never ever hit a woman, I have promised myself that. I know when I am getting angry, and I walk away. I will go outside and punch a fence, find another way to vent.

"I grew up watching both my parents use violence and don't want my kids, when I have them, growing up like that. I want to be the type of dad my friends had, to take my kids out hunting and fishing, not be locked up away from them. Not to have them scared."

By talking about this, hopefully it helps other people realise the long term damage family violence and drugs can bring. Not just on one person, but a whole family.

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Tutaki Youth Inc has given him lots of support, he says.

"For someone like me, who didn't like the police much when I was growing up, now I come across them in a positive way. If I have a problem I know I can call into Tutaki and chat to Simon [Senior Constable Simon Howard, who works from the Tutaki building on Juliet St] and he will give me advice. I like the fact there are people to talk to, people who want to see me succeed, they believe in me."

Note, John is not his real name. As he has younger siblings still living at home, we have changed his name to protect his, and their, privacy.

How to get 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:

• Tutaki Youth Inc: 06 928 4517
• 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