New research from Women's Refuge reveals a huge number of women delay leaving abusive relationships because they fear what will happen to their pets. This week, as part of a three day series, we announced the launch of the first Pet Refuge, a service that will removed that barrier for women looking to escape domestic violence. Today we here from a man about his violent upbringing and pet abuse.
TRIGGER WARNING: the following account contains descriptions of domestic violence. Please take care.
The script was all too familiar. I'd got the role of the abusive husband and father in a film for Pet Refuge, a shelter for pets while their owners escape family violence.
It definitely brought back parts of my childhood.
A lot of my memories are a bit faded - partly with time, and partly with the mind trying to push away the things that are a little bit too hard to deal with.
My mother's boyfriend was an extremely violent man.
The anger would come out of nowhere. You'd suddenly have this realisation something bad was going down.
Objects were thrown, people were hit.
Once, in primary school, I got some correction fluid on the stationary account. I took it home and he was furious I'd spent money because we didn't have much.
He told me I was stupid. He said I didn't need it, I should just not make mistakes. Then he picked it up and threw it at my forehead. It was terrifying.
The dogs weren't off-limits.
He used to wear steel-capped boots - he liked to go on about kicking people - and he would use those on the dogs.
I remember him hitting one over the head with a hammer.
He'd rough them up and encourage them to be aggressive, and teach us kids to wrap a jumper around our arm so the dog could bite it.
He even ran over my cat.
He just left it on the side of the road and told me to go and find it. I had to carry it home, dig a hole and bury it.
It was pouring with rain and I was holding the cat in my arms, completely soaked with tears streaming down my face. I remember being so upset, and feeling so alone.
Then his dog attacked Mum's.
I vividly remember its face, mangled from all of the fighting.
He ended up shooting it in the head because the vet bill would have been too expensive.
I wonder if that contributed to the tipping point.
He'd always told my Mum he'd kill everyone around her if she tried to take away his son (my younger brother).
But not long after, we escaped to a Women's Refuge. I don't know what happened to his dog. As far as I know it was left in the kennels, waiting for someone to feed him and love him.
It took a long time for the fear to go away.
I would sleep with toy nunchucks under my pillow, in case he came back and I needed to defend myself.
It was a counsellor who told me, in tears, that what I'd been through wasn't normal.
I was surprised. It's a hard thing to hear that everything I'd experienced shouldn't have happened to me. Because I can never have my childhood back.
I used to worry for many years that I would become as violent and angry as him.
I was scared I was pre-determined to fall into that cycle. One day I realised it's just not inside me.
I've always been gentle and kind. I wish I could go back and reassure the younger me that things are going to be alright. And if I can help someone else see that they can go through horrible abuse, and still find joy in life, that would be a really nice thing.
I know Mum spent years planning her escape.
If there was a shelter she could have sent her dog to temporarily, I know it would have been part of the plan.
Maybe her dog could have been saved before it was too late. I know plenty of other families will want to use Pet Refuge.
Abuse isn't limited to the people in the house, and I'm sure there are lots of animals who'd be much happier if they were extracted, and loved, while their owners find a safe place to stay.
New Zealand's first shelter dedicated to housing pets affected by family violence is being built.
Pet Refuge will provide a temporary safe haven for pets, while their owners escape abuse. We need your help.
To donate to the shelter build visit: http://pldg.me/petrefuge
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
• Pet Refuge petrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
PET REFUGE: THE SERIES