This is Galina Velas.

She was sexually abused by her stepfather, Mihail Bourduk, and she wants you to hear her story.

Bourduk, who lives in Torbay with his second wife, did things to Velas that were described as "repugnant" in court. As a result, she lost control of her life.

She battled bulimia for 15 years, the stomach acid from throwing up constantly destroying 17 of her teeth.


She lost two chances at motherhood - one to abortion, the other to adoption - because she was not living a good or a safe life and did not feel she should bring a child into the world.

She has been in an abusive relationship, worked in an adult industry, lost countless other jobs, friends and relationships and has ongoing serious health issues.

But she does not want your sympathy. She is a survivor, not a victim.

Velas has taken the brave step of waiving her right to automatic and permanent name suppression so she can share what happened to her and help others, create awareness and remove the shame and stigma around sexual abuse.

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"I am not a victim, I am a survivor, a growing warrior maybe," Velas said.

"It felt like i had a heavy load of shame on my shoulders, I felt so bad about myself ... and now I realise that it's not my shame and it's not my fault.

"It's not my shame, or anyone else who has been abused ... and I want people to know that.


"People need to be brave and stand up like I did and take that control back. I want to spread the word, I want to help in any way that I can."

Bourduk was convicted of attempted sexual connection and two counts of performing an indecent act on a young person in the Auckland District Court following a jury trial.

He denied any abuse occurred, and maintains that Velas lied in court and her allegations were all fabricated.

He is serving a sentence of home detention for his offending.

Velas faced him in court at that sentencing, reading a powerful victim impact statement which she has shared with the Herald.

What Bourduk did: the facts

Velas is not dwelling on the sexual abuse she suffered, but wants people to know what she went through in a bid to create awareness and to educate the community and victims about what is going on in so many Kiwi homes.

The details of the offending are graphic and may be upsetting to some, but Velas said it was important people knew what her stepfather did so they could understand her struggle.

After a trial in the Auckland District Court Mihail Bourduk, 51, was found guilty by a jury of attempted sexual connection and two charges performing an indecent act on a young person.

Bourduk denied throughout the trial, and continues to deny, that he abused his stepdaughter.

However he was convicted on all charges and sentenced to eight months' home detention.

The 51-year-old became Galina Velas' stepfather when she was 6 years old, after being in a relationship with her mother for some time.

The family were living in St Petersburg, Russia, but when Velas was 13 they emigrated to New Zealand, arriving in Auckland in March 1995.

The family moved into a small, one-bedroom flat in Onehunga and all slept together on a mattress.

In September 1995 Velas was asleep on the mattress when Bourduk when he moved in close behind her and tried to push his penis through her legs towards her genitals.

She tried to move away but could not, and, afraid of what was going to happen, squeezed her legs together and coughed loudly enough to wake her mother.

Only when his wife stirred did Bourduk stop.

In another incident in the flat Bourduk and Velas were sitting on the couch watching television when he stretched out his legs and started pressing her genitals over her clothing with his feet.

Soon after the family moved to a house in Beach Haven and Velas had her own bedroom.

The court heard that she would often walk out of her room and see Bourduk without any pants on.

During her teenage years Velas suffered from bad skin, and Bourduk's third charge came as a result of him offering her a "solution" to her problem.

He told his stepdaughter that sperm was "very good for the skin" and when he got the opportunity, followed her into the bathroom and masturbated in front of her, into a container.

He then told Velas, about 14-years-old at the time, "to apply it to her face".

Galina Velas was sexually abused by her stepfather as a young teenager. Now, she is speaking out to help others. Photograph by NZME.
Galina Velas was sexually abused by her stepfather as a young teenager. Now, she is speaking out to help others. Photograph by NZME.

Court document reveals further abuse claims

During the trial the court heard from Velas about years of violent and sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather.

While he was only convicted on the three charges, Judge Stan Thorburn acknowledged Velas' claim that there was more abuse in her life.

Court documents provided to the Herald reveal that Velas accused Bourduk of offending dating back to when she was 5 years old, before he married her mother.

"Miss Velas wants the court to be aware the offending was not isolated, but was in
fact representative of a persistent pattern of sexual grooming, physical and sexually
abusive behaviour that he subjected her to for many years," a reparation report presented to Judge Thorburn said.

"Miss Velas asserted that the offending began shortly after her mother met the offender when she was about 5 years of age, escalating in frequency, severity and deviance until a friend supported her to disclose the offending when she was about 17 years of age.

"She stated that she understood the reason he was not charged with any earlier alleged offending was because it occurred outside of the New Zealand criminal justice jurisdiction.

"In terms of the offending, Miss Velas said that she anticipated that something would
happen to her every day. Either the offender would commit an indecency on her or
she would be threatened, induced or compelled to commit an indecency on him.

"Miss Velas said she never welcomed the offender's attention, but complied with his
demands because she feared that either she, her mother and later her younger
brother would be harmed if she refused.

"Miss Velas gave examples of some of the ways in which the offending impacted on her including leaving her feeling unsafe in her home, isolated her from her family, isolated from friends, poor self-esteem, self-loathing, unable to engage in education and pro-social employment, unable to develop positive and enduring relationships, substance abuse and self-harming behaviours.

"She said the offending had touched every aspect of her life, leaving her mentally, emotionally and spiritually damaged.

"As part of her current rehabilitation, Miss Velas is working to support other victims of childhood sexual abuse to identify and increase awareness of abusive behaviours and its many manifestations."

The sentence

Judge Stan Thorburn sentenced Bourduk to eight months home detention and ordered him to pay Velas $10,000 reparation for his offending.

"Miss Velas is now in her 30s, so these matters go back now over a period of more than 20 years.

"The jury returned guilty verdicts that the defendant today is adamant as he was during the trial that ... these accusations and allegations are outright lies.

"I remember quite clearly his evidence when the issues were put to him, he became repetitive and simply responded 'nothing happened, it is lies'.

"He maintains that position, therefore there is no remorse for offending that has been regarded as proven and, of course, no acceptance of responsibility."

Judge Thorburn said Velas' victim impact statement was powerful and conveyed what many in her situation went through after such offending.

"Victims of offending of the nature who carry the memory of it with them through their formative years of their lives ... are often debilitated by ... a lack of dignity and erosion of self-confidence.

"They expect little of themselves because they have been treated as though they are of little value and it means that they often make poor decisions about the direction of their own life because they don't think they are worthy of pursuing anything of much worth."

Judge Thorburn said Bourduk had never been before the courts until these matters and he genuinely believed there had been no further offending with anyone else.

He said Bourduk had been an exemplary member of the community for most of his life in New Zealand.

But, he said, Bourduk had a dark, repugnant secret.

"There is a paradox here," the judge said.

"It's not unusual in the human event that people have had a phase or a stage where there has been something quite dark, but it has never been repeated and it never will be ... it is in contrast to everything that is known about a person.

"All of us have secrets. For Mr Bourduk, it seems clear that there is a dark one ... it's dark and it's terrible."

While Bourduk's offending may have never been repeated, Judge Thorburn said it was still crucial to hold him to account for his offending and the damage he had caused Velas.

"There was a grotesque breach of trust ... while in a relationship as a parent you used that relationship to control for self-gratification in a sexual way," he said.

"The victim ... being someone who was dependant and also very vulnerable.

"That is an overarching and repugnant feature in this type of offending."

Judge Thorburn said it was not appropriate to send Bourduk to prison for his crimes.

He said the community did not need protecting from Bourduk and it would be a waste of tax payer money to incarcerate him.

Instead he sentenced Bourduk to home detention and ordered him to pay the reparation.

Velas had told the court earlier that she did not want any monetary payment.

"I note that she has not asked ... and she has made it clear why, but the court is obliged to take into account the steps it can take to do as much as possible to assist the victim to a path of recovery."

Galina Velas: A message to my abuser

Velas has allowed the Herald to publish her victim impact in full. She read this in court, to Bourduk at sentencing and was commended by Judge Thorburn for her courage.

It has been almost 30 years since the day my childhood was taken away from me.

The abuse that had gone on for over 10 years has completely impacted and changed my life.

I was robbed of a chance to have a normal childhood, be a normal teenager and grow into a beautiful adulthood full of possibilities.

The abuse started by grooming, then instilling fear by brutal beatings, indecent exposures and then sexual acts that no child should ever be exposed to.

You took away all control of my body and any right to speak up and stand up for myself.

That made me hate myself in every way.

I grew up having a very low self-esteem which caused me to take extreme action to make me feel good and worthy.

I became bulimic in my early teens and for the next 15 years struggled fighting it.

This then extended to over-exercising which lead to me being unable to face public unless I punished myself by making myself sick.

Bulimia had such a strong hold over me that by my early twenties, my stomach acid destroyed 17 of my teeth, which needed to be repaired or removed.

I have had ongoing stomach issues from a very young age - I have seen dozens of doctors and had all procedures possible to find out the cause.

Recently I have discovered via a specialist that my stomach issue is very common in sexual abuse cases. My treatment will be very hard and will take many years to bring me to normality.

The final year of my school was spent at the gym or over a toilet bowl. I barely passed my exams. I tried studying at Auckland Uni, AUT and other private tertiary providers but failed each course.

I was extremely self-conscious and insecure. I felt so stupid each time I failed. I was left with a huge debt and no education to show for it. I stopped trying to study as each time I tried the failure hurt even more. I was good for nothing and felt so alone.

Holding down any jobs after I left home was near impossible and was have been fired from every work place. Because of the eating disorder and lack of self-esteem, I often would not turn up for work and struggled communicating with customers or colleagues.

Still unemployed in my early twenties, no sense of career direction, no good friends or support around me, I got into a horrible industry where the only worth was seen is my body and how it could be used by others.

I've allowed other men to use me as I felt that is all I had to offer. It what I thought love was and to get it I had to give myself, my body and my soul up.

Shortly after I got into an abusive relationship where beatings where a norm. As always, everything was my fault at all times. Like in my childhood, I would freeze every time I saw a fist about to punch me, I would let myself be pushed to the ground and kicked even when I was heavily pregnant or slammed against a wall or a door.

I've alienated myself from my family and any friends who tried making contact with me. I've missed my brother's biggest life events, like him going to intermediate school and then college, having accidents where I could not be by his side to make him feel better.

I've missed my time with my ageing grandma, spending precious time with her neither I or her or I can ever get back. Being there for my mum through ups and downs, new jobs and holidays - was not to be.

I turned to alcohol which I thought would help go through my life at home and outside of home. I no longer knew who I was and how to live.

Out of sheer fear of putting another human being through what I have gone through, I chose to have an abortion at 20 and then a few years later - an adoption. I lost two chances of being a mother and left a child with a huge hole in their heart.

The bond with this child is thin and separated by continents where seeing that child is extremely difficult- all because of the inhumane abuse you inflicted upon me, your own then-stepdaughter, a helpless lonely child who just wanted to have another chance at having a dad, a true family and to be loved.

I was and still not able to fully form meaningful friendships, and I struggled to trust any person. If another female friend was introduced, it would feel she was a threat to me. I would feel worse about myself, comparing myself and would almost always feel fatter, uglier and more stupid and definitely not worthy of love.

My current long-term relationships have suffered greatly over the past 10 years as well as all of our direct families as a result of my insecurities and fears. Developing close relationships is what I would love to do but as soon as I start feeling invested, I get scared and push people away. That part is extremely painful to me.

With the help of my partner and my psychologist, I've realised that everything is NOT my fault.

All of my symptoms stem from my abuse. For many years, my partner has been supporting me in helping start a new life.

When we met he helped me leave the soul-destroying industry and start from scratch.

I began as a waitress then receptionist and working in the office environment. Today I'm slowly beginning to feel that I am capable of having a worthy career.

For the past 10 years my partner has endured my insecurities and losing control and taking the full brunt of my anger. I feel so grateful for his support but cannot help to think what kind of life he and we would have led now if I did not stop us from all life opportunities and possibilities had it not been for the side effects cause by you.

As a result of my abuse, for many years I felt that I have failed my family, my partner and my friends. I've spent my life avoiding normal people in normal situations, I am envious of some people who have normal issues. Progressing in life was and is still difficult.

I have lost 20 years of fair chance in education and building an enjoyable career, leading a happy and fulfilling life surrounding by the love of family.

I am now in therapy on regular basis as well as couples therapy to try and help me and my family more forward and remove the trauma caused by the abuse which affects everyone around me.

For years I've lived with the abuser's scars left on my soul and body, it is a daily reminder that you got away with it for so long.

Low self-worth caused by the abuse prevented me from growing as a happy person, enjoying life and finding my true path.

But I'm a survivor and with help of a small but powerful army of people who care for me, I am starting to believe in myself and a big step towards my freedom is to make my abuser fully accountable for the years of agonising pain he has caused.

However, words can never truly express how much pain he had also caused to my family, my partner and my friends.

I hope a fair judgement will be served and I and my closest people can have another chance at a great life - I deserve it.

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.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay.

Where to go for help or more information:

The Harbour, for those affected by harmful sexual behaviour
Help Auckland 24/7 helpline 09 623 1700
Wellington Help 24/7 crisisline 04 801 6655, push 0
Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse

• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line 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. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• 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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