In my early 20s, I was hit by a man. It came as quite a shock. Apart from being hit on the hand with a ruler in primary school, I'd never been struck by another person. My mum and dad had never hit me and they'd never assaulted each other.
Whenever there were parties when I was growing up, it was the laughter and dancing I remembered. Gatherings of adults never descended into drunken violence and aggression. So to be hit - hard - was a new experience.
My then boyfriend was holding a party at his flat in Roseneath, Wellington. Everyone was off their chops and when he threw up all over himself, that was the last straw. I told him I was leaving and he told me I couldn't go.
An argument ensued and ended with him hitting me across the face, dragging me into his bedroom, ripping my clothes off and throwing them out the bedroom window.
The houses in Roseneath are built on the sides of hills, so my clothes disappeared into the bush, never to be seen again. Then he shoved me on to the bed and went back to the party, locking the heavy oak door to his room behind him.
I lay there absolutely furious. It wasn't so much being hit, as being powerless. That was what really enraged me.
How dare anyone tell me what I could and could not do. How dare some man think that it was okay to knock me around because I dared to disagree with him.
The party raged on for a few more hours, then the door opened and he staggered in and collapsed on the bed. Eventually, he fell into an alcoholic stupor. I lay there waiting, eyes wide open and rigid with fury, until his breathing became deep and steady.
Then I straddled him, whacked him as hard as I could in the face and ran for the door. He was so drunk he didn't wake up.
This time, he was the one locked in and I grabbed one of the coats hanging by the door, covered my naked body and walked, barefoot in the early hours of the morning, back to my flat in Oriental Bay.
My cheek and jaw were throbbing, but so too were my knuckles. I had imagined it would hurt to be hit - I didn't realise it hurt so much to do the hitting. I guess abusers get used to it.
The next day, a very hungover and remorseful boyfriend appeared on my doorstep. He had the beginnings of a bruise on his face, as did I. He couldn't quite remember all the details but he knew he'd behaved badly and he was sorry. I didn't let him in the door. I had no desire to see him again and although it might well have been a one-off event, fuelled by alcohol, I didn't want to take the chance. And apart from a number of phone calls and a few letters, he left me alone.
I have never understood how people can stay with others when they are being abused - and I say people because there are men in abusive relationships too.
Women have told me in the past that it's an insidious process - their partners will undermine their confidence and tell them they're fat, worthless and unattractive and that they're lucky they (their partners) love them because no one else would.
And when the first blow comes it is followed by contrition and apologies and pathetic excuses like "It's only because I love you so much" or "It's your fault. You made me lose control".
A detective specialising in family abuse told me that some children who have grown up in abusive families come to accept violence as the norm and that anyone who hasn't grown up in that environment can't possibly understand it. I find it even harder to understand the two women who rang me a number of years ago and told me they stayed with their abusive, white-collar, professional husbands because they didn't want to be poor. Perhaps other women can empathise but I failed to.
I'm more afraid of losing my self- determination than I am of being poor. I am so grateful I grew up in a loving family, where I was encouraged to be a strong, independent woman.
Men who hit women are bullies and control freaks and they're dangerous. They seldom own up to their actions and instead try to paint themselves as victims, attempting to justify to themselves and anyone who'll listen that it's not their fault. The women drove them to violence. Bullshit.
If you choose violence, you need to own it and get help. And women who are in abusive relationships, please. If you don't care enough about yourself to leave, leave for the sake of the children. Otherwise the cycle of violence continues.
New Zealand has the worst rate of family and intimate partner violence in the world. A shocking 80 per cent of incidents go unreported - so what we know of family violence in our community is barely the tip of the iceberg.
In tomorrow's Herald: Why is family violence so prevalent in New Zealand and what exactly is it?
Follow the campaign on Twitter #betterthanthis
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 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
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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.
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