Alicia Aplin has lived through hell.
She's been beaten, molested and abused and seen her sisters suffer the same fate.
In 2001 two of those siblings were murdered - stabbed as they lay in their beds and left to die in pain, terrified and alone, by their stepfather.
The worst part of Aplin's hell, aside from losing her baby sisters, is the regret.
The regret of not speaking up about the abuse, the regret of knowing someone was hurting her family and not being able to help, the regret that if someone had heard her and stepped in, the girls would still be alive today.
That terrible day in 2001 Aplin's life was torn apart and she retreated into she shadows, hiding with and from her pain.
But now she is ready to speak, to tell her sister's story because they cannot, and to try to raise awareness around family violence and prevent any other young Kiwis dying at the hands of abusive parents.
"Someone needs to speak up for them, be their voice," Aplin told the Weekend Herald.
"They need to know that It's okay to come forward.
"At the end of the day not coming forward might be the biggest mistake of your life and you can't change it, you can't go backwards.
"It's hard, living the rest of your life with regret - the maybes and the what ifs, that's the biggest thing.
"Knowing it just needed me to say the word help for this all to be different..."
Sisters murdered after years of violence
Reports into girls' deaths find fault with CYF
Murder accused wept in interviews
Murder accused blamed partner
Howse jailed for 28 years for murdering stepdaughters
Grandfather of murdered Masterton girls speaks out
Saliel Jalessa Aplin, 12, and Olympia Marisa Jetson, 11, were fatally stabbed by their stepfather Bruce Howse in the early hours of December 4, 2001.
The girls had gone to bed in the sleepout of their family's Masterton home and Howse crept out and stabbed them - Saliel first, and then Olympia.
Howse killed the girls because he found out that they had disclosed his physical and sexual abuse and authorities were investigating.
Child Youth and Family sent a letter to the girls' mother, Charlene Aplin, in November 2001, and on December 3 she picked up the phone and responded.
Howse, who had been reading CYF mail sent to his partner about her daughters, killed the girls hours later.
It would later emerge, after Howse was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 28 years, that CYF and police had been working with Charlene and her children since the 1980s.
There had been allegations of abuse and violence throughout the years, the children and their mother spent time at women's refuges and the children were also put into the care of their grandparents at one stage.
After the girls died CYF admitted a raft of failures on their part and said "the normal checks and balances of the care and protection system ... did not operate effectively in this case".
Aplin lived with the abuse, her sisters lived with the abuse - they were simply too scared to tell anyone what was happening in their home.
"I knew if I opened my mouth I'd get a hiding," she said.
"It wasn't just a kick up the bum - it was jug cords, belts shoes, kicked to the point you're thrown against a wall, punched in the face ... broken bones.
Once Were Warriors had nothing on my childhood ...
Aplin said her mother was not abusive, nor did she know a lot of what was going on.
She'd had partners before Howse who also harmed the children, but they were threatened about what would happen if they told anyone, so the youngsters kept it quiet.
"We didn't have a normal childhood ... at a young age we had to learn to survive," Aplin said.
She recalled seeing her mother get beaten, barricading herself in a bedroom with her younger siblings to protect them from the violence, dragging them to the neighbours to call police.
Over the years the authorities came and went, investigating allegations of abuse and several times removing the children from Charlene's care.
But they always went back.
The last time, Aplin refused.
She was 16 and hated Howse, and her mother for staying with him.
Aplin stayed living with her koro and nana, but she always worried about her brothers and sisters.
That's what drove her back to Charlene's home.
"It wasn't until I started seeing my siblings at school and knowing that they were not safe that I decided I'd go back and live with my mum.
"To me I was the older sister, they had no one else, I guess I thought it was my job to do that.
"I went back home and I was right. They were going through hell, Bruce was beating them up ... Charlene didn't know much of it. He'd do it behind closed doors."
Aplin fell pregnant around that time, and after a violent confrontation with Howse, she left again.
"I had to think of my baby over myself and that's the hardest thing I have to live with - the fact that I had to choose my child over them," she said, tears falling from her haunted brown eyes.
"I had to worry about my child and leave them in that hell and there was nothing I could do about it."
Aplin remembers the last time she saw her sisters - the night they were murdered.
There was a family dinner at the grandparents home and Charlene came with all the kids, and Howse.
Olympia spent much of the night across the road trying to convince another relative to give her one of his new puppies, Saliel clung to Aplin.
"She kept asking if she could stay with us the night, but we had a lot of stuff to do the next day, we were just too busy," Aplin said.
"Saliel was just pleading, I should have known something was really wrong.. There's a lot of regret not letting her stay the night ... a lot."
Aplin said goodbye to her mother and siblings, having no idea that two of them would be dead within hours.
At 4.30am the next day, the phone rang and Aplin and her grandparents were told that Howse was in hospital, he'd been attacked.
"I remember thinking 'oh my mother finally hit him back, she finally did it'," Aplin said.
They drove to Charlene's Kippenberger home and found police swarming.
"Mum was across road at a friend's house ... she had the babies and I remember walking in the door and asking 'where are Saliel and Olympia?' and she told me that they were asleep.
"I said 'what do you mean asleep?' and she said 'for good'.
"I remember breaking down, screaming, running across the road trying to get to them, but I wasn't allowed.
"All that day my family kept asking who could have done it and I kept saying 'I think it was Bruce'."
Howse was charged with the murder of both girls and was convicted after a High Court trial.
He denied killing his stepdaughters throughout the trial, maintaining it was Charlene who knifed the schoolgirls to death.
"My biggest regret is not coming forward," Aplin cried.
"My biggest regret Is not having a voice, being too scared ... but I had learned that if I opened my mouth, that was a beating - and I was scared that of those beatings was going to kill me. I
"I became a mute ... I was like a shadow.
"Now I want children to know they can speak up - tell somebody, don't keep it in till it's too late, don't be too scared to the point there's no return."
"I live with a lot of guilt because I did not come forward, I have to live with that every day, there was something that I could have done but I was too scared."
Remember Saliel and Olympia - a sister's tribute
Alicia Aplin wants her sisters Saliel and Olympia to be remembered as the beautiful, bright girls they were - not just victims of murder and abuse.
She wanted to pay tribute to them, and hoped that by speaking out, New Zealanders would do more to protect children and stop turning away from the unpleasantness of family violence.
"Saliel was a very strong-willed person, she was a tomboy who loved her sports - any sport she touched she could master," said, beaming with pride.
"She was very outspoken, very opinionated, she was amazing in a lot of ways.
"Me and her were very close ... we did lots of stuff together. I might have been the oldest but she acted a lot older than me, she was very out there.
"It's very hard to speak about her, I've been a bit lost since she's been gone ... We went through a lot of stuff together growing up together, but we always had each other.
"We were both attached to each other in a lot of ways, she helped me through a lot of stuff growing up, I helped her through a lot of stuff growing up ... We would sleep in each other's beds a night, share each other's secrets.
"It's just been really hard without her here. She promised me it was always going to be me and her against the world and then all of a sudden she's gone.
"We were really tight, we were like Bonnie and Clyde, we always had each other's back ... we had our own kind of family going on.
"Growing up I was quite shy, I was pretty much in the shadow and she was my voice. When she died I promised I would speak up for her, and I found my voice but it's been a bit hard to get it out. It's taken me this long to open up and actually tell her story for her.
"Olympia, Olly, she was like a little angel, she had the brightest blue eyes.
"She was very outspoken but she had a very kind manner about her - if we were starving she would give her last piece of food to her younger brother, they were very tight, they had the same sort of relationship as me and Saliel.
"Olympia was like the little mother, she was always helping the younger ones, she was always making sure that they were ok.
"She always had this beautiful smile on her face with the biggest dimples."
The sisters' ashes were buried at the family urupa near Masterton alongside their grandfather Alan Aplin in November 2016.
The date of the burial was November 6 - which should have been Olympia's 26th birthday.
TIMELINE OF ABUSE AND MURDER
February 13, 1989: Saliel Jalessa Aplin born
November 6, 1990: Olympia Marisa Jetson born
1994: The girls' mother Charlene Aplin starts a relationship with Bruce Howse
1994: Charlene calls CYF to report Howse abusing her kids, the kids are removed and live with her parents
1996: The Family Court rules the children can return to live with Charlene and Howse
1997: Charlene and Howse break up, she takes legal action to keep him away, but they reconcile
1999: After giving birth to her first child with Howse, Charlene leaves after a violent incident
2000: Charlene moves with her kids to Ashhurst, after further incidents with Howse and police she reconciles and moves back with him to Masterton
August 2001: The children's school contact Charlene to advise Olympia has made sexual abuse allegations. After a weekend at home the little girl retracts the claims.
September 2001: Alicia leaves home for the last time, the school contact authorities again about new claims of abuse by Olympia in a note in her exercise book
November 2001: Charlene and Howse fight and police remove the violent man who later
calls his estranged partner threatening to kill the whole family
December 3: Charlene calls CYF to speak to Olympia's social worker about the new allegation.
December 4: In the early hours of the morning, Howse stabs the girls to death.
December 4 2002: Howse is sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non parole period of 28 years for the murder of Saliel and Olympia
November 2016: The girls ashes are laid to rest next to their grandfather at the family urupa.
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 crisis line 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. Crisis line 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