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.

For years she lived in fear.

Sally was belittled, abused, bullied and controlled.

Her husband told her what to wear, how to style her hair, who to speak to and what to say.

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He never hit her, never left a mark on her body, but he tore emotional and psychological scars every single day.

Sally was a prisoner in her own life and it would take years before she realised what was happening - she was a victim of domestic abuse.

One day, fearing the rest of her life - and her young daughter's - would be enveloped in fear, she walked into a police station and asked for help.

What she didn't expect that day, was how much Victim Support would do to help free her from her miserable marriage.

"If it wasn't for Victim Support, I don't know where I'd be," she said.

"To be truthful, I probably wouldn't be here - there were days I just couldn't cope, I'd shut off."

Sally, who asked for her name to be changed so her now ex-husband could not identify her, said no one ever saw what he was really like.

"All they saw was the businessman, fisherman, their friend, the sports player, but they never saw what was going on behind the closed door," she said.

"I had sometimes wished he had hit me, then people would have believed what he was doing, what he was capable of.

"If words were punches, I'd be black and blue - there are wounds that never show, that are deeper than anything that bleeds.

"He would constantly tell me I was stupid, he told our young daughter she was a failure, 'dumb like your mother' and 'a waste of time'.

"Her childhood should have been carefree, instead she lived in a fear of darkness."

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

Sally said her family begged her "many times" to leave him, but she couldn't see a way out.

"I was too proud to talk to anyone in the early stages because there was no proof, no physical marks, no bruises," she said.

"I would pretend I was okay. I was destroyed. I was so desperate for someone to look me in the eyes, give me a hug and say 'you're not okay'."

Read more:
•The other side of crime: Victim Support made our tough time easier

When Sally finally mustered up the strength to go to police one of the first things they did was refer her to Victim Support.

"I didn't even know it existed until then," she said.

It took her a while to realise that she was a victim and that she deserved - she had a right - to help.

"They opened my eyes, I think a lot of people don't realise exactly what they are there for."

While Victim Support help many people who have lost a loved one in a traumatic event, or been a victim or party to one - it also helps thousands of domestic and sexual violence or abuse survivors.

"Domestic violence isn't just physical, I was equally a victim," Sally said.

She spoke on the phone regularly to a Victim Support volunteer and said the woman gave her the strength to get through the separation from her husband.

She was helped through the process of getting a protection order, leaving her home and resettling with her daughter.

"They made sure I knew my options, they empowered me, they gave me the strength to have a voice."

Sally now volunteers for Victim Support herself, inspired by her experience and determined to pay it forward and help as many people as possible.

"I am passionate about helping and making people aware of domestic violence; there are so many more victims and survivors out there," she said.

"I'm a survivor. By telling my journey, I'm not reliving it, I'm not being re-victimised - it's about courage, empowerment and strength."

She chose to share her story with the Herald to help raise awareness about Victim Support and to encourage people to back the organisation either financially or by getting involved personally.

"There are a lot of volunteers out there giving up their time, their own lives to help others," she said.

"It's an organisation that gives so much to the community.

"I think the main thing is to make people aware of what Victim Support does and how much they do."

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.