THIS IS EVERYONE’S ISSUE! Teen family violence survivor: I made it out, but other kids don’t.


Domestic violence thrives in darkness and secrecy. If no one asks about it and no one talks about it, nothing changes. Join Light It Orange to shine a light on domestic violence and be part of the solution. @Shine

To the world he was an assistant principal, sports coach, loving husband, dedicated father. But behind closed doors he was a monster beating, belittling, berating and bullying his wife and children every day.

“He was really, really abusive to us mentally, emotionally and physically,” his 18-year-old son told the Weekend Herald. “He always put us down, he was always controlling, he would always use violence.”

The teen spoke out about his abusive upbringing because he wants to raise awareness about family violence and let people know what it’s like for kids growing up in volatile and fear-filled homes.

“He’d be the best dad in the world in front of people, but as soon as they left, he’d be back to himself and treated us horribly.”

More than 90,000 Kiwi children are exposed to family violence each year. That’s one in 12 of our young people either witnessing or being subjected to violence or abuse in their own homes, where they should be safe and protected from harm.

Every five-and-a-half weeks in New Zealand a child is killed by a family member.

The stats are horrific, and this year specialist domestic violence prevention charity Shine is focusing on the plight of our young people in its annual Light It Orange appeal.

The 18-year-old and his mother and siblings turned to Shine about five years ago after all hell broke loose in their home one night.

During a violent altercation between his parents, his sister called police. His father was taken away, and never returned to the family home. His abuse continued and does to this day. He stalks his family, driving past the house at all hours to remind them that he is still there. But court orders prevent him going any closer to them.

The 18-year-old was hit daily, for any reason, and was constantly trying to find ways to win his father’s love. “Dad always told me that no one cared about my thoughts or feelings. He always told me I was too short and too fat. He made fun of everything I did. He used to tell my little sister that she was a mistake, that she should never have been born. Dad was quite cruel… I never felt safe, I felt very scared, I didn’t know what was goingto happen, who was goin to get hurt.”

His mother and siblings were also subjected to daily abuse. The teen grew up thinking that was normal. After all, his father was an upstanding and respected member of the community so surely he wasn’t doing anything wrong.

“I would go to my friends’ places and see how their dads treated them, and I’d think ‘why doesn’t his dad hit him or tell him he’s stupid? When he would fight with my mum he would tell me to stay away, otherwise he’d hit me as well. I was sure that if I tried to stop him, what was happening to my mum would get worse or something bad would happen to me.”

Life was confusing, exhausting for the teen. “I could never please him, I blamed myself for a long time because I was never able to fulfil his wishes. When he left it was like a huge weight of relief came off me.”

The teen, who is now at university and living in a violence and abuse-free home with his mum, brother and sister, spoke out about his life to help others understand how serious family violence is in New Zealand.

“I think people are extremely naive about it. I wanted to speak up so people know what kids see and hear. I’m very thankful that I’ve been able to make it out but other kids don’t. This is something that is happening every day.”

Shine’s Light It Orange national appeal runs for a week from Saturday, March 3.

During the week hundreds of Kiwi schools, workplaces, clubs, businesses, and individuals have fundraisers to help the charity with all donations helping kids and running the free domestic abuse helpline that operates 365 days a year.

Shine spokeswoman Holly Carrington said people who think they don’t know anyone who’s experienced family violence need to understand that they probably do.

“Family violence is an epidemic. With one in three women experiencing it in their lifetime and so many children being affected, it’s likely that someone you know has been hurt, scared or abused by a partner or family member.

Shine helps victims get safe and stay safe. Our services help children know how to deal with these difficult situations by helping them create an age-appropriate safety plan for the next dangerous or violence episode, and we help them to understand that the violence is not their fault.”

Carrington said the most important thing was for New Zealanders to realise this is everyone’s issue. The more we look out for each other and our children, the more we talk to each other and offer support, the less power abusers have and the stronger our communities become.”

Funds raised through Light It Orange in Auckland will support Shine’s work with children who are traumatised by family violence.

Outside Auckland, donations will fund Shine’s free domestic abuse helpline, which is available to adults and children experiencing abuse, or to anyone who suspects a friend, family member, colleague or neighbour needs help.

For more information on Shine’s Light It Orange appeal, including how to get your workplace, school or group involved, click here.

Light It Orange the facts

According to police and support agencies, New Zealand has the worst recorded rate of family violence in the developed world.

In 2016 police investigated 118,910 incidents of family violence, an increase of more than 8000 on 2015.

One in three women in New Zealand will experience abuse in her lifetime, and the majority of those women will have children.

Shine has advice on its website for what to do if you know or suspect someone is experiencing domestic violence, whether that person is an adult or a child.

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

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 Ministry of Justice: family-justice/domesticviolence.

National Network of Stopping Violence:

White Ribbon: Aimingto to eliminate men’s violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent.

How to hide your visit

If you are reading this information on the Herald website and you’re worried that someone using the same computer will find out what you’ve been looking at, you can follow the steps at the link here to hide your visit. Each of the websites above also have a section that outlines this process.

Cover My Tracks

NZ Herald

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