Mum, we have to leave - 20 September 2016

I was in a violent relationship for 17 years with the father of my children. I was 19 when I got married in 1971, totally naïve and from a sheltered and loving family. In those days I was a student nurse.

Social expectations at that time meant that a nurse’s worst fear was that she would be “left on the shelf” so marriage was something to aspire to. I had a large wedding arranged by my mother and there was a write up about it in the local paper. I was so hopeful for the future and believed that my life as a married woman would be the beginning of a fairy tale existence.

The extreme violence began on my wedding night, which I understand now is not an uncommon time for it to begin.

I was shocked. I had no idea what to do. There were lots of wedding presents everywhere. I had no words to describe what had happened. What words could I use? 

And over the years the violence continued. It included all sorts of stuff, like, throwing furniture and food, smashing TVs, threatening me with an axe and knife, throttling and choking, driving dangerously and sexual violence. 

But I told no one about it, not even my family, friends or work colleagues.

Eventually, after a series of violent and frightening events one of my daughters, who was seven at the time, said “Mum, we have to leave”. Somehow her saying that gave me the strength to leave and never go back. 

As soon as we left I started to see the colour of the sky and grass and flowers and other beautiful things. I had been so disconnected and afraid that I hadn’t noticed what was going on around me. When I think back now, I know I was lucky to survive.  I am appalled and saddened that today even though there is so much more discussion about this issue, statistics confirm that violence against women in New Zealand is increasing and that many women are killed every year.

So today, at the age of 64 with the gold card rising on the horizon, I celebrate being alive, being happy and counting the good things.

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