Here, Kate*, 40, tells the story in her own words.
S￼tirring the dinner, my mind wandered. I imagined toys all over the floor and the kids playing happily. Maybe I’d have a friend round for coffee...
Suddenly, there was a crack as my partner Peter punched me in the face, ripping me from my daydream. Thwack! Another blow rained down on me, before he walked off. Without saying a word, I cleaned the blood from my nose and dished up. ‘Dinner’s ready,’ I said. I was used to this – Peter’s sick abuse was as much part of my daily routine as brushing my teeth.
Over the years, I’d learnt not to cry or fight back because that only made the attack last longer. He’d been so charming when we’d met at a party when I was 20. But after I moved in with him he’d become controlling and violent. He’d even kicked me in the stomach during all six of my pregnancies.
Now our two sons, Alex, 12, and Michael, 10, and four girls, Michelle, eight, Marie, six, Ashley, four, and Sarah, three, had to witness their dad torturing me almost daily.
He’d thrown a jug of boiling water on me, disfigured my ear, and he’d beat me about the head so often I’d gone blind in one eye and partially deaf. Some nights, he’d force me to stand outside naked in the freezing cold. Another time he told me to open the garage door before driving the car into my legs, pinning me against it. As I screamed in agony he sat there watching me for 10 minutes.
Every day I thought about leaving, but Peter controlled our finances and hid my bank cards and ID. He’d isolated me from my family and he never let me take all the kids out of the house at the same time. He knows I wouldn’t leave any behind, I thought. Peter had stopped working too, so he was in the house with me day in, day out. I was totally trapped in this living hell.
‘I’m sorry,’ he’d say afterwards. ‘I’m just teaching you to be a better person.’
There was one particularly sadistic form of abuse Peter used to rule our home. ‘Go and choose a weapon to hurt Mummy with,’ he’d smirk to my youngest boy. Poor Michael would look up at me with big, sad eyes.Then he’d take so long, trying to find something that wouldn’t hurt me and come back with a small stick. ‘No, get the machete,’ Peter would order. Then he’d make them watch as he held it up against my throat. He kept other weapons around the house to use on me too, like pieces of wood, extension leads, and a bat.
It was so bad, I daydreamed about killing him. I could poison him, I thought. But then I’d go to jail and my kids would have no parents.
In 2014, Peter told me to enrol at college to get extra government benefits. He’d drop me off, pick me up and phone constantly, demanding to know who I had spoken to.
One morning, he stamped on my face with his boot, and by the time I got to college, there was a footprint-shaped bruise. A lady from student services called me into a meeting.‘We can help you,’ she told me. I tried to deny it but she pressed me gently. ‘Your daughters
will think it’s normal to be in an abusive relationship,’ she said carefully. ‘And you’re teaching your sons it’s okay to hit women.’ I have to leave for my kids, I realised. ‘What do I do?’ I asked. ‘We set a date and we stick to it,’ she explained. ‘Thursday,’ I replied. Three days away.
Back home, I told Alex, then 15, the plan.‘I’m getting out, but I promise that I’m coming back for you all,’ I said. ‘It’s okay Mum,’ he replied. ‘I’ll look after the girls.’
On the day, I gave them all an extra tight cuddle before school. But I couldn’t cry or take any belongings, in case Peter got suspicious. Leaving my children behind was more painful than any beating. But you’re doing this for them, I kept reminding myself. Once Peter dropped me off, I went to stay with a lady from a women’s refuge.
Then, I finally spoke to my mum on the phone. ‘I’m coming home,’ I cried.When social workers removed the kids, we all moved in with Mum and my stepdad. ‘You’re safe now,’ he told them.
This year, Peter, 46, finally appeared at the High Court in Auckland. He pleaded not guilty to everything except one charge, meaning the kids and I had to give evidence at his trial. Grown men on the jury were in tears as I described the beatings I’d endured.
Thankfully, Peter was found guilty of 38 charges, including wounding with intent and assault with a weapon. Justice Mathew Downs jailed him for 12 years and ordered him to serve a minimum of six before he’s eligible for parole.
After, I made a decision. I’m not going to be sad about the past, I thought. Instead, myself and the kids – now 18, 16, 14, 12, 10 and nine – are focused on rebuilding our lives.
I want other people who might be suffering to know they can get out too. After finding the courage to leave I’m going to make the most of every moment.
*All names in this story have been changed/ all images posed for by models.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship and you need help, call 1800 737 732 in Aus, or 0800 456 450 in NZ.
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