Don’t Turn a Blind Eye - 10 December 2010

I am a midwife, and one story remains with me even though it's been years since it happened.

I was caring for a beautiful young Maori woman and her newborn baby. I would see her at home and sometimes she would have bruises on her body, which she would try to hide.

It was a very difficult subject to bring up with her. She seemed very ashamed, and the implausible explanations she gave for her bruises along with a gut feeling convinced me that something more was going on.

Twice I visited her and she did not answer the door, even though I could hear her telling her other kids to be quiet inside. The next time I saw her after that, her face was black and blue and there were holes punched into the walls.

My heart ached for her. Every time I saw her, I would ask her if she was safe, if her children were safe. At first, she would change the subject quickly and say she was fine, she was just clumsy. But I kept asking her. And I kept telling her it was not OK. I bugged the hell out of her basically.

On what was meant to be my final visit she turned and said to me, "I don't want my son to be like his dad. Can you help me"? Her eyes were downcast, she was embarrassed and at that moment she was the strongest lady I had ever met.

We moved her and her kids into a safe house that night. At first she was very tempted to get back together with her partner. He kept ringing her, telling her he had changed. I think she even did meet up with him once or twice. But in the safe house she met other women with similar stories, and they gave each other strength. For the sake of her kids she stayed strong.

This story has stayed with me because I remember thinking "stop asking her so much, stop hassling her, maybe there is nothing going on." But I had a gut feeling things weren't right. And I am so glad I kept hassling her.

It is NOT ok, and we have to keep asking if we think something is wrong. We can't turn a blind eye, these families might have no-one else looking out for them, you just don't know.


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