Having fled an abusive relationship, Angela has been supported by Te Whakaruruhau
Waikato Women's Refuge. With her life back on track, she now plans to give back to the Refuge.

Angela realised she had to find a way to escape her abusive relationship when she was peeling vegetables for dinner one night and she was overcome with an urge to stab her partner.

As usual, her partner was standing behind her left shoulder while Angela (not her real name) prepared vegetables, providing instructions on how to prepare the meal. He'd been controlling her every move for months.

By this time, Angela had managed to build up enough trust that her partner let her stay at home during the day; previously he'd locked her in his vehicle while he was at work. So the day after the urge came over Angela to stab her partner, she fled the house and went to the Police.

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"When the detective asked me 'why have you come for help now after all this time?' I said 'because I'm going to kill him'.

"There was this little knife and I was using it to peel and something came over me and I had to control it. All it would have taken was a split second and I would have stabbed him. And that scared me. It scared me what it was doing to me psychologically because it was getting to the point where I was getting fed up and tired and it would only take a split second to stop it, even though I knew it was the wrong thing to do.

"I knew that urge was only going to get stronger and stronger to the point where I wouldn't be able to control myself any longer. I was taking it all in and where was the anger going? It was just sitting there and that's a dangerous thing. The only thing that got me out of there was that my life belonged to my children, no one else."

Angela says Police asked her what steps she wanted to take but didn't believe they really understood how unsafe it would be for her to return home.

"The Police aren't social workers ... there was only so much they could do. They weren't going to put me into a refuge until I spoke to a Victim Support worker and then the liaison person told Police I couldn't go home. They didn't realise how dangerous he was.

"I'd been isolated the past two-and-a-half ... three years. Nobody knew where I was for at least 18 months. This man was very quick. If I had a bag packed, he'd know. He knew what went in the washing machine, he knew what came out. There was lots of power and control." Angela's former partner is now remanded in prison, awaiting trial next year.

Angela was placed into a refuge in South Auckland and was later transferred to Te Whakaruruhau last November.

"I had experienced everything from psychological abuse and many levels of physical abuse, sexual abuse. When I came in here it was very warm and welcoming. The women who brought me in were very sensitive to my situation. They were kind and gentle. There was no hurry to do anything."

Angela said that as time went on she experienced "a rollercoaster of emotions" With 24-hour care on site there is always a house mum here, someone you can talk to. The more I spoke with the women who work here the more they helped me realise what i needed and when I realised what I needed I could ask for help and I got it."

Having concerns about her mental health, Angela voiced that and the Refuge organised for her to see a doctor.

"I tried different medications to address the symptoms I was having. I came in with high anxiety, I was always looking around. I got used to being on the move and I couldn't sit still. My body was shaking; it was too used to moving."

Refuge staff also helped Angela with a raft of other everyday practicalities - organising her finances, supporting her to get her children back and arranging for their education and childcare, and arranging for Angela to attend courses, counselling and to get into study.

"The least of my worries was food and accommodation. For the first time in my life I didn't have to worry about that. It took a long time to grasp that. It gave me that space to work on myself, that's been part of the journey."

Angela enrolled in Mauri Ora, a workforce development programme based on cultural cornerstones for social service practitioners, and will graduate at the end of the year.

"The course has really contributed to my personal transformation. Every advocate who works at Te Whakaruruhau does this programme. I think I could be a perfect advocate because of what I've been through and it's my way of giving back to Te Whakaruruhau.

"My journey has given me insight into how I can be a better person, not just as a mother to my children but as a sister, an aunty, a cousin or just a member of the community. I've been working on my own family and there's been huge progress there.

"I'm fearless now. I'm a whole different person. It's been a huge personal transformation."