- Published: 2 March 2021
- ISBN: 9780143774235
- Imprint: Random House NZ
- Format: Trade Paperback
- Pages: 256
- RRP: $35.00
Survivors of Domestic Abuse Tell Their Own Stories
An extract from Te Ara's Story
In jail he had made all these promises – ‘When I come out, I’m going to change’ – and when he came out he broke every single one of them, one after another. And to top it off, because he lived with us, my family started seeing this about him.
My sister said to me, ‘Bro, this guy is evil.’
I tried to justify his actions, and then I started noticing that my daughter didn’t like him. She knew he was evil. Babies are so sensitive. No matter what he did she just wouldn’t love him or show affection to him. But I kept my daughter close to me. That’s my girl. When he came out of jail, she was nine months old. Even though she was asleep, she heard, and she felt what was going on in the room.
He used to take the door handles off our bedroom door. In order to get into the room, we had to use a knife or scissors. I honestly did not know that was part of his way of keeping me in there. And these sorts of things – the power struggle – my naïvety kept it going. I truly did not know. It wasn’t until I did a university paper that highlighted the power he had over me. It was all manipulative, and it was deeply seedy. When I look back, the feeling I have is ugliness. His ugliness.
My family used to say to me ‘What happened to your door handle?’ and I’d just say exactly what he told me: ‘Oh, it’s broken.’ When we moved out, I put the door handle back on, and I could see there was nothing wrong with it.
After my daughter’s first birthday, we were fighting a lot, lot more. This was when I was hiding from everyone what was happening in our room. I tried keeping everything quiet, but my daughter was there in the room. One night he came home, he was drunk or something, and it was even worse. He was back into his grunting, and that told me that this was going to be bad. I’d already started thinking that it wasn’t like this when he was inside and I was beginning to see another way to live. Then he came home and started grunting, so for the first time ever I asked for help. I couldn’t get out of the room and I was holding my daughter, thinking ‘Fuck! My baby is going to be involved’, but she had already been involved, for a long time. This time she was awake and I was trying to calm her down, so I called out to my sister and ended up walking to the door, because I knew there was a knife under the cot, which was right next to the door.
She said, ‘What do you want?’
I said, ‘Hold on, I’m just going to open the door,’ and I watched him as I opened the door, and in my head I thought, ‘Fuck, he’s pissed! I’m going to get it!’
My sister said, ‘What is it?’
‘Can you just hold baby? I won’t be long.’
I went to hand her over and he punched me in the head – BOOM! My sister saw it, and just as quickly she punched him in the head – BOOM!
That was the day that changed everything.
In that instant, I saw the power change. My sister didn’t have to do much to manhandle him out of there. This is the biological mother of my daughter.
She said, ‘Oh bro, when I saw that hit it was overs for me! You do not hit my sister like that! I had never seen that before.’
No one had ever seen it before. But when they saw the ugliness, they told him to get out.
My sister said, ‘Ain’t nobody gonna do that in my house. Not in my house. Not under my roof. My man doesn’t even hit me. Your man thinks he can come over and hit you? Nah, bro!’
So that was the change, seeing him getting dragged out. But I still feared for my family, so we had to get out. We moved into the refuge a few days later, and I went for a protection order. Since then we’ve had an ongoing fight in the Family Court for my daughter. He served me with a summons to appear in court for parental rights to this child, but he has no biological or emotional connection to her. And yet the courts heard it and allowed it. I’m still fighting for a non-removal order on her to be lifted. I could barely get myself to the hearings, and I still can’t understand why we’re being punished, not him.
There were constant affidavits going back and forth, and I said, ‘You guys are dumb! I’ve got written statements from her biological mother and father. I’ve got a court-appointed lawyer for the child who is saying there is no need for him to have access. Why is this carrying on?’
The case never got heard before the court, it got dismissed. He knew the system because he’d been in and out of jail. I can’t understand why they gave him that power to begin with, by allowing that. I need to get an awesome lawyer to fight this to the end.
That’s one downside to the whole of this journey. It keeps me in his orbit, and I’m sick and tired of having to bring out my protection order. I really, really just want to leave him over there – out of my life. He’s been a part of my life, but it doesn’t have to define the rest of my life.
I had my first panic attack on a quiet sunny morning in Berlin. It was mid-summer.
Dear Girls, You are prohibited from reading this book until you are twenty-one years old.
I’m on the highway a few miles out of town when the noise starts: a scraping, grinding din that jackhammers my heart into my stomach.
My favourite time of day is ‘magic hour’, when the sun takes a dive behind the craggy mountain ranges and the sky is painted a stunning purple-pink.
Trauma psychotherapist and Holocaust survivor Edith Eger makes peace with the past as she returns to Auschwitz