White Ribbon Day takes a stand against domestic violence. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM
Yesterday was White Ribbon Day and reporter EMMA BROWN shared the story of a Wairarapa woman who survived domestic violence.
“If it wasn’t for the local cops, I would be dead.”
Less than five years after her life flashed before her eyes at the hands of her husband, a Wairarapa woman is telling her story to help others in violent relationships.
The Times-Age agreed not to identify the victim or identify the dates relating to the abuse.
Married for almost 40 years, the Wairarapa woman thought she had found the love of her life.
A couple years ago, things changed when five people close to them died in the span of a year.
The woman’s partner started drinking to cope, and with the drinking came the violence.
Soon came the worst night of her life.
“That’s the night that he tried to kill me.”
Earlier in the day, she had called the police, but they were not able to attend immediately, so they spoke to him on the phone to try to get him to leave the property.
Later that evening, his hands were around her neck and she was fighting for her life.
She kept kicking and scratching until he let go, then she escaped out the door, tripping over and smashing a bone in her leg.
“I don’t know if you have ever had your life flash in front of your eyeballs.
“It’s like you think of your childhood, you think of everything, all in that split second.
“I am going to die if I don’t do something.”
At the hospital, the first person she saw by her bedside was Marlene ‘Ma’ Gaskin – a family advocate from the Police Family Safety Team.
The woman was raised to believe that what goes on at home, stays at home, so she told Ma to leave.
Every day, Ma checked in with her, and every day she was given the same response.
“But now I trust Ma with my life.”
Her partner would also visit, causing her to freeze.
After months in the hospital and rehab, she was back home with limited mobility.
Her husband continued going to the pub and stayed out because he didn’t want to see what he had done, she said.
“And then the verbal abuse [started], because he couldn’t hurt me by smashing me up, but I was scared he was going to.”
One night, months after the initial incident, he started smashing things and threatening her, so she rang 111 twice and hung up.
“Ma told me if he does anything, do a silent [non-speech emergency] 111 call.”
They went to bed and she felt like it was hours before two police officers turned up and took him into custody.
“And that was it, that was the last time he smashed anything in my house.”
Through everything, she said police, her counsellor, Ma, Women’s Refuge, and going to court helped her move forward.
“If I was by myself, just left to myself and had no support, no Women’s Refuge, no counselling, no police backup, no nothing, I wouldn’t be here.”
When it came to pressing charges, she didn’t place any – the police did that on her behalf.
She said going to court broke her heart, but she attended the main hearing.
“I couldn’t even go in the court door, when those doors opened, and Ma was behind me I said ‘no
I couldn’t’ – my feet wouldn’t work and my whole body just froze.”
With some encouraging words from Ma and a “nudge”, they sat behind screens and she told the judge her story.
“I didn’t want to be able to see [my partner]. I didn’t want to feel sorry for him and go, it’s all right, you just get a slap on the hand. I felt like a nark even though I wasn’t.”
He pleaded not guilty at the start because he did not remember what he had done and thought he would be let off, she said.
During her testimony, the trial was stopped, and he told his lawyer he could not go through it any further and pleaded guilty.
“That ripped his undies all right because you don’t do that to people you love.”
“So why do it to me, because he could get away with it, and that’s what they do, they start off with something little and then if you are lucky enough, you survive something big.
“It becomes a way of life; you get used to it; you harden to it.
“It happens again, and you do the same thing again until something just snaps, and you’ve just had enough.”
She said it took Ma and Women’s Refuge months to help her stop feeling guilty for him being charged.
“The police really stepped up and so did the judge, the judge got it. He was sentenced to imprisonment for what he did to me.
“No amount of prison time, no amount of not being able to see him is going to make any difference. It’s the way I am.
“So yeah I am just really grateful and humble from the bottom of my heart for all the people and all the support that I have had.”
“And you know the worst part out of all of this – I lost my soul mate, someone I respected, loved, and thought was going to provide and care for me and look after me no matter what.”
She said the only slip-up on her journey was that the hospital didn’t take photos of her during a potential domestic violence situation.
Her phone would often be factory reset by her partner so any photos would be lost.
If she had her life over or could tell her younger self something, she said she wouldn’t have taken him back after the first time he was violent.
“One day, I will thank him.
“I will say thank you for making me the person I am today, and it made me strong.”
She now hopes to walk in a marathon one day and to work with Victim Support.
Now, when people ask her how she is doing, she can say “fine, thank you”.
“I can say that now, I couldn’t before.”
She said it had been a journey – one that she never wants to go on again.
Her final message was, “don’t let this happen to you”.
“Tell someone, talk to the Police Family Safety Team, doctor, friend, contact Women’s Refuge – there is support out there.”
This is the last of a five-part series sharing the White Ribbon message.
Family violence helplines
For emergencies call NZ Police 111
Te Hauora Runanga O Wairarapa 06 378 0140 0800 666 744
ChangeAbility 06 3773716
Women’s Refuge crisis line 0800 733 843 – 24 hours
Family violence information 0800 456 450
Shine National Helpline 0508 744 633 – 9am to 11pm
Shakti – for women from migrant and refugee communities 0800 742 584 – 24 hours
National network of stopping violence 03 391 0048
Elder Abuse Helpline 0800 32 668 65 – 24 hours
Wairarapa Rape Crisis 0800614614 regional free number, 0800 883 300 National free number