New Zealand has the worst rate of family and intimate-partner violence in the developed world and over the Christmas and New Year period the number of incidents spikes dramatically. Less than 20 per cent of incidents are reported to the police - so what we know of what we know of family violence in our community over the festive season is barely the tip of the iceberg. Today we have a simple message - every Kiwi has a right to a safe, fear free and happy holiday. We are revisiting our campaign We're Better Than This, and over the next few days we want to raise awareness, educate, and 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.

Alexander Masame took the cricket bat and gave his son a hiding. The boy had been playing up. He needed to be taught a lesson, to be shown who was the boss, to get back into line.

It was his family, his house, his rules. He dished out the same kind of discipline to his wife and daughter if they needed it. He wasn't doing anything wrong. He loved them and
it was for their own good.

And he endured much worse as a kid - his dad used a piece of 4x2, so a cricket bat was nothing.

If Masame had carried on like this, a tyrant fixed on control and dominance, he is sure he would have made the news.

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He would have been one of "those guys", a man who killed his partner. Another fatal case of domestic violence.

But he reached out for help and more than a decade later he is still working on being a better man.

And now, especially coming up to the festive season, he's calling on other abusers to do the same.

READ MORE:
Family violence at Christmas - We're Better Than This
Family violence: How you can save a life
Family violence survivor: 'Christmas was HELL'
Former abuser answered your questions: 'I still have anger in me'
Watch: Reformed abuser Jeremy Eparaima
Family violence: When an offender becomes a helper

Former perpetrator of family violence Alexander Masame speaks about what drove him to hurt his family and what he lost as a result.

Masame initially signed up to a stopping violence programme with Shine in a bid to convince his wife not to leave him.

He had physically and psychologically abused her and their children for years and it looked like she was about to give up, walk out, break up his family.

"Initially I was only doing the course to save my marriage. I thought if it looked like I was doing something then my wife wouldn't leave," Masame says.

"My marriage was getting worse and worse and I was getting worse and worse. I was pretty physical but more psychologically abusive.

It was my house, I was the boss, it was my rules. I was pretty arrogant. I'd come home and shit on my own family without realising. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I just didn't know how to fix it, so I made things worse. It was easier for me to be hated than to look foolish.

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"I knew I was wrong but I didn't want to admit it. In my way I was just doing the best I could. I thought I was teaching my family how to be strong."

Masame went along to the men's group each week but admits the first few meetings were just for show, he wasn't particularly interested, he just wanted to look as though he was changing.

"The arrogance was still there. I was smiling and looking normal on the outside, but on the inside I wanted to smash stuff," he says.

A few weeks into the course, Vic Tamati, another former perpetrator of abuse who now fronts the It's Not Ok campaign, came to speak.

"Vic started telling his story and I sat up and thought, 'This guy's similar to me'. At that point the penny dropped and I realised that I needed to stop my bullshit. Until then I'd just been doing the course to save my marriage - but then I stopped and I listened and I took it all in.

"I thought,'What the f*** are you doing' and I started to break it all down, I asked questions, I wanted to know as much as possible, I needed to know as much as possible so that I could be better. I needed what this course was offering."

The course wasn't enough to save Masame's marriage and his wife left and divorced him in 2010. His relationship with his children isn't perfect but he was heartened when his daughter recently told him she had forgiven him.

Masame goes to a stopping violence course every year and now volunteers with Shine and other family harm prevention groups, sharing his story, hoping to help other men.

"I go there to check myself. I was never arrested, the police were never called when I got heavy-handed. I am part of the 80-odd per cent that go unreported each year," he says.

"Imagine if there are other guys out there like me that don't know what to do, that need help but don't realise. That's why I have come out and started speaking about my story.

"It's important I do what I do because one of those men might be my daughter's boyfriend in the future, and I want him to understand the right way to treat a person."

Masame says looking back, his anger was dangerous - more than his family probably realised.

Before the course, had his wife tried to leave, had she called the police, had she spoken out about his abuse, he would not have taken it well.

To be embarrassed was the worst thing for me ... I was supposed to be the man. I was supposed to be in charge of everything. I'm a big strong guy and I should be in charge - that's what I used to think. I would rather be hated than look stupid.

"I definitely think I could have been that guy."

Masame said Christmas and New Year were stressful times for families and there was a lot of pressure that could lead to violence and harm erupting in Kiwi homes.

He calls on anyone feeling angry or worried about their behaviour to reach out for help as soon as possible - to not leave it until it was too late like he did.

"It doesn't have to be this way. There is a better way and that starts by being shown that there is support out there," he says.

"Your family is your heart. It is an extension of you and in the end your family are the only ones who will be there for you, who matter. If you don't look after your heart, you'll
break it.

"If you are a safe man, you will have a safe family - just don't forget your heart."

Masame says his days of violence, bullying and controlling his family were over. Now, he is focused on helping others, and healing.

"Me, I'm better than that," he says.

Coping with anger this holiday season

Violence is a choice - so make the right one when it comes to your family. For more information visit the National Network of Stopping Violence. nnsvs.org.nz/whos-affected/men#mens
If you notice you are getting angry or stressed, take time out, remove yourself from the situation.
• calmly state "I need to take safe time out"
• leave the situation
• do something physical like running or walking
• notice your thoughts and replace negative self-talk with positive
• talk to someone who will help you calm down
• return when you have wound down
• don't use time out as a way to hurt your partner
• avoid alcohol and drugs
• don't wait until boiling point to take safe time out.

If you're in danger NOW:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours or 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

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