New Zealand has the worst rate of family and intimate-partner violence in the world. Eighty per cent of incidents go unreported — so what we know of family violence in our community is barely the tip of the iceberg. Today is part four of We’re Better Than This, a week-long series on family violence. Our aim is to raise awareness, to educate, to give an insight into the victims and perpetrators. We want to encourage victims to have the strength to speak out, and abusers the courage to change their behaviour.

Key Points:

• Today we are telling the story of real victims. Some of this content may be confronting, graphic and upsetting. Please take care. At 18-years-old the last thing you want to think about when you get your first serious boyfriend is about domestic abuse. "That can't happen when you're just 18 can it?" is what I would always tell myself. Domestic abuse was between older partners, people who had drinking issues and drug problems - not to me. Surely it wouldn't happen to me. It did. My perception of domestic abuse has changed dramatically. No longer do I think that domestic abuse is only limited to certain people. It can happen to anyone at any stage of their life.

Watching my mum spend over ten years with an extremely abusive partner who would get very physical with her and us kids made me think that domestic abuse was only abuse if it was physical. Yet for me, after two years of being in the same relationship, it never registered that this was abuse until about a year and a half in; because he never hit me.
Domestic abuse is not limited to punching, kicking, biting or slapping. It's not limited to being physical.
For me it was the arguments that would last all night long because he wouldn't let me go to sleep. It was the fact that if I wanted to have a shower I couldn't do it unless he showered with me - if that's what he decided. It was having my phone taken off me so I couldn't call for help. It was getting in my face and calling me horrible names, being threatened constantly and told I was good for nothing. It was having water poured over me whilst I lay on the bathroom floor having a panic attack.
It was being trapped inside a room for hours, sometimes days, not being able to go outside or even use the bathroom.
It was having the sheets ripped off the bed and being made to sleep on the floor, having all the lights turned on after you had fallen asleep, being poked and prodded until you woke up. It was having my car keys taken off me so I couldn't get to university that day. It was having my phone and computer history constantly checked and being accused of cheating. It was being blocked in a doorway for hours or refusing to leave me alone. It was pinning me onto a bed and sitting on top of me, threatening to spit in my face.
It was threatening to break my legs.
It was being threatened to get other people to 'sort me out.' It was driving around the streets wildly, screaming at me, not allowing me to get out of the car. It was a punishment for me acting badly. It was what I deserved. It was how I made him treat me. It was always my fault... No.
I never asked to be treated like that. I never deserved that.
It took multiple times of me leaving and then coming back, many lost friends, many calls to the police and a lot of hurt family members who could see what he was like before I left. My story thankfully has a happy ending. I have been living alone for the past three months and graduate from university soon. I am focusing on studying and learning to grow as a person on my own. For years I thought that I wouldn't be happy unless I had a partner beside me. But even when I did, I was miserable. I was diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder. I was depressed to the point where I was hospitalised twice in the time I was with him due to trying to commit suicide. My confidence has never faded throughout though, and I am lucky for that. I am twenty years old now and am slowly getting my happiness back and I don't need a boyfriend to do it for me.
Don't ever think that just because your partner doesn't hit you that it is not abuse. It is abuse.
It is a horrible kind of abuse too, that cuts you to the core and bruises you all over but shows no trace of it. It's a silent and deadly kind of abuse that not many people can see. You do not deserve to be treated like that.
You deserve so much better.

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:

• Women's Refuge: Free national crisisline operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 • Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 • It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 • Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisisline 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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Take a stand - NZ is #BetterThanThis

New Zealand has the worst rate of family violence in the developed world. One in three women will be subjected to physical or sexual violence from a partner at some point in their lives. Take a stand. Change your social media profile picture to demand that we are better than this. Right-click on this image below (or press and hold on your mobile device) to save, then upload to your social profiles. Or you can download the image here.