Karen’s Story

It all started in 2010. My Mum had just gotten together with her boyfriend, Richard. We would go and visit them every chance we got. It was a two-hour drive, but we managed. I also have a brother and sister, Sam and Jacob. He has a daughter named Hannah. When we went round we would go fishing and shearing, we thought he was awesome. After a year, we all moved out to a country house only a half an hour drive away. We loved it there. I remember us going down to the creek and paddling in the water. Sometimes I would wake up at 5:00 am, look out the window and see a sheep staring at me.

My sister slept at the end of the hallway and she could see down the hall. I remember she told me once that she heard them having a bad argument and he was about to do something but saw Sam so he stopped. But since I trusted him so much I said that she was lying. One night I woke up to them nearly screaming at each other and then mum ran into my room that I shared with my brothers room and hugged him and just cried. The next morning was the weekend, we left at about 8:00 in the morning, aunty came to pick us up. Mum decided it was best for us to shift into our own house. Mum told us that Richard cheated on her with a few other ladies.

A while passed without anything bad happening, mum decided to give him another chance. But we weren’t allowed to see him and that meant seeing mum way less, or she would be on her phone texting him when we were there. I remember dad was looking after us for 1 night and I started crying because of how much I missed her. We once stayed with my dad for a whole week because of it.

One time my mum got $1,000 and she went to Richard’s with it. We woke up at about 7:00 am the next morning and started watching some TV in our room. My dad was still in bed when we heard a knock. Dad went to answer it and it was my mum. We heard her crying and crying. My dad took her in the lounge and talked to her. Hannah, my step sister, was picked up by her mum at around about 8:00 am and that’s when dad came up and told us what really happened. Her money had gone missing and Richard had blamed it on his new workmate. They went over to his house, but no luck. They went back to the house and after a little while she found her wallet hidden away. She realised that Richard had taken it and confronted him, after that she ran to the bedroom and cried. He apparently came up to the bedroom and started beating her. They said if he didn’t stop he probably would have killed her.

After a bit we were allowed to see her we walked out and she had black eyes, bruises and cuts. We both went over and hugged her, my grandad was there and so was my nana. They said that the police were coming to mum about what happened after a little bit he started to text her nonstop and try to contact her so she went to the police, They gave him a warning but he wouldn’t stop. After a little bit, the police ended up arresting him and he went to jail for half a year and he isn’t allowed 100 meters close to any of us. I think we are all a little bit nervous when mum gets a new boyfriend, but we haven’t heard from him in a couple years.

(all names have been changed)

Letter from Dr Russell Wills, Children’s Commissioner and White Ribbon Ambassador

Dr Russell Wills.   Photo by KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ

Dr Russell Wills. Photo by KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ

To those it concerns,

Do your children see you get angry and shout? Have they watched you lash out at their mum? Do they cower in the corner when you enter a room? Are they frightened of you?

It doesn’t have to be like this for your children. It shouldn’t be like this.

When you are violent it always affects your kids. It changes their development and it changes how well they’ll do in life. When they grow up they are more likely to be violent themselves, or be victims of violence. They are more likely to have major mental health problems, drug and alcohol problems and physical problems.

As a pediatrician – I’ve seen your kids in my clinic. Kids like the four-year-old girl with a developmental age of two. And like the little boy who wasn’t learning at school; not because of ADHD (like everyone thought) but because he was terrified that when he got home mum would be hurt or dead.

Your kids still love you but they want you to change. I think you love your kids too. I think you want your kids’ lives to be better than yours. I’ve seen dads turn their lives around because they love their kids and they love their kids’ mum. You can too.

It’s not too late. I’m asking you to step up and get help right now. I know this is not easy but take a positive step for the sake of your kids.

You could start by taking the White Ribbon pledge to promise to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence towards women. You could talk to someone you trust about your behaviour and ask for help. You could call the Family Violence Information Line on 0800 456 450.

Be the kind of dad your kids would love you to be. They want you to walk into a room and give them a cuddle, or play with them or talk about their day. They want to be happy to see you.

Most men in New Zealand are not violent. Become one of them.

Yours Sincerely
Dr Russell Wills

Other reading:

  • The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a global technical package to prevent violence against children, THRIVES. Read the article from the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse here
  • In Aotearoa New Zealand, SKIP (Strategies with Kids│Information for Parents) provides a range of parenting resources, as well as funding, training, networking, hosting and support with evaluation. Resources are available for parents as well people working with parents and communities to provide support. “Whakatipu” kaupapa Māori resources reinforce how tamariki and parents can learn together through play at every age and stage. SKIP booklets are also available in 18 languages other than English.

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