He started grooming me years before he actually did anything “bad”. When I was eight he was encouraging sexualised behaviour and provocative dress. He encouraged me to act beyond my years in some ways. My mum would be there and she would say, no, no, no, but there was nothing that she could really do, because he was crazy and abusive. He would chase her around with a hammer, hog tie her and leave her naked lying on the floor, in the middle of the lounge for everyone to see and stuff like that if she defied him. It's difficult because I don't necessarily hate her anymore for her decision to be with him, but while she was still there I couldn't talk to her. 


He groomed me with massage, and words and stuff like that over time. Then he took it up a notch. He would 'accidentally' touch me in these small ways, like resting his penis on my bum while he was massaging me. I was just young and naive, kind of thinking well, that's an accident, but it’s making me uncomfortable.


He started watching me through the broken slat in the shower. As the years developed he did more and more. I didn't tell anyone for ages. I stopped wanting to go to mum's house. There were problems with my dad's girlfriend too and it got to the point where I was living by myself, pretty much couch hopping at the age of 14. Because Mum kind of understood me a bit more, she would give me a bit of money to make sure I had some food. 


At the time I thought, why not just leave him, you bitch. You know? But now as an adult I can kind of understand the repercussions of leaving someone who's in a gang and is physically and emotionally abusive to her. It wasn't as simple as just packing up and leaving. 


Around the time I stopped going over, I started to tell people what he had been doing. I was telling people I didn't want to be around him. Not that many people were encouraging to me about it. Dad's an angry man, so even though he believed me, he was just angry about it. The best way to describe him is a “typical Kiwi Bloke.” He can’t do emotions well. He’s never been able to be vulnerable with me, or allow me to feel comfortable to share my vulnerabilities. There was no love and support from him, just action. Mum was freaking, because it had happened, and she had this horrible man on her back but ultimately did nothing to support me.


The police found out I wasn't with either of my caregivers, and we made a plan that I would move in up north with my mum, on the condition that he couldn't visit, but he would of course still turn up. Things happened again later on down the track there, and I told him again, I don't want to see you, I don't want to talk to you, and ended up moving out again at the age of 16. I was so angry. I just imploded. I hit the drugs and alcohol. All of those dumb choices. I was such an angry person. I broke my back and was hospitalised, and retrospectively, I think the morphine and codeine they were giving me became a crutch, not just for my back but for the emotional hurt as well. 


I decided I was going to make a clean break, and go off to Christchurch, where I fell pregnant with my daughter. As luck would have it, I was off the drugs. I thought that for me to turn around, I have to move somewhere where I don't know anyone. I don't know drug dealers, I don't know anyone. No one knows me, no one knows my history, It's just a complete fresh start. I guess because of the abuse that I had suffered as a child it was hard for me to have healthy relationships. I was only 17 at the time, and the man that I was with ended up becoming very emotionally and physically abusive again. It’s almost like I’ve had to re-train my brain to function ‘normally’. I have had to learn how to have healthy relationships, and that has been super tough.


So I left him 39 weeks pregnant and I jumped on the plane from Christchurch to Auckland. I was in a Bethany Centre because my dad and his wife wouldn't let me live with him with a new born baby. I am glad I went to the Bethany Centre as I desperately needed support. It lacked the love I needed, but it was great to have support. The centre had a course on sexual abuse. I was sitting there pregnant and hearing all this stuff and I just thought, fuck. I have to take this to court for my baby. I will never move on if I don’t try. I didn’t want to carry the weight of this abuse alone on my shoulders anymore, hidden away like some secret. As if it never happened. I wanted to be heard.


I began the police process to try and get to court, and then out of the woodwork one of the girls that also was abused by him contacted me out of nowhere. I was actually quite nervous and scared at first because she never believed me, when we were younger. But then after I had cut off contact with him, he abused her. So I didn't reply to her for about a month, and when I did reply I said, "This is what I'm doing. If you're coming into my life to create any shit and drama. I'm just going to block you, but if you actually want to talk to the police officer, here's his contact details." And she contacted the detective and we went to court four times. We gave evidence four times in front of a jury of 12, and eventually every single charge got not guilty because the scientific evidence wasn't there. So he got off all of his charges, which was really hard. 


But then after that, he freaked out on my mum. He flipped out and called the police on her for something he made up, and the police came and arrested her and took her away from his property, and she wasn't allowed back. About eight months after she was living by herself I contacted her. She said she was too scared to contact me as I might still hate her, but she had left him for good. So from there we slowly started talking again. Over time we managed to build a relationship again, although it is always going to be different now, because of that element. 


I guess when I see the kind of mother and daughter relationship that some of my friends have, ours is never going to be like that. And thats ok, I don't expect it to be. I'm just glad we can talk. I think that was the hardest thing about the sexual abuse, because when I cut him off, I had to cut her off, and it was really hard. I thought it would just be easier if my mother was dead, because she would be gone, and I wouldn't have to think that I do have a mum, but I just can't talk to her, because of a choice I made to try to protect my own welfare, and try and move past what had happened. Going to uni I think really helped. It made me strong and comfortable in my own skin. It’s really cool that my mum can be part of that. 


Now that I am a parent myself, I'm a lot more cautious with who her friends are. Sleep-overs are a hard thing for me to swallow if I don't know the family well enough. I am always teaching my daughter the strength of her own voice. To be assertive and confident. I feel like it's vital for us to have a really close relationship so we can navigate bumps in life. Even small ones because if we can't communicate small bumps like bullies and clashes with friends and boyfriends and all that stuff, there's no way that she's going to be comfortable enough to come with me with more serious issues. It's scary. 


Living in a patriarchal society, females are at a lot more risk. I'm not saying that boys don't have risk involved in growing up, they are still vulnerable in some senses, but I do think that girls have higher risk. In Auckland at the moment there seems to be a trend of kids being tempted into cars with lollies and money. One little boy actually got taken and abused. Seeing those news articles, they freak me out, because it's happening not too far from where I am. One of them was like 20 metres from the school gate. I probably get more freaked out affected by it than I should. 


I'm lucky that my partner is very patient. He's been able to help me work through issues. Obviously it's myself working through, but he's patient enough to let me be a complete wreck for a month, and that's okay. He supports me, and makes my lunch, rubs my feet, whatever he can do to try and make life easy for me to be happy. He's amazing. And it's cool to know that men like that exist. It's really important. I get angry still sometimes, but we need to role model good healthy relationships to my daughter, because that is a big issue as to why I wound up having abusive men in my life for many years. Both my mother and father were in abusive relationships. 


Dad got abused by partners. Having the police turn up at both my mum and dads house all the time is not something that I want in my daughter's childhood. Knowing that stuff about both my parents helps me understand who they are and why they made the choices that they did. 


The situation surrounding abuse in this country does worry me. One in three females admit to being sexually abused, and one in seven men admit to being sexually abused. The key word here is admit. How many people have been abused and not ever spoken up about it? Because they didn't feel safe or they felt like they weren't going to be taken seriously. 


There's also so many little things that get brushed off as not abuse. Touching in clubs or in the work place. I mean technically I have been sexually abused by multiple people, but it wasn't serious enough to go to the police. So there's micro aggressions that just keep building up. It is so damaging that because we live in a society that there is little in the way of reformative justice we can't actually fix the situation. You can't just lock up a person for ten years and expect them to be reformed. If you lock them up and don't help them what's going to happen? They will re-offend. 


It's so frustrating to talk about sexual abuse in public forums and with media. You can't approach it on emotional terms. You can't remove the emotional side of abuse. It's just that for it to be taken seriously within academia, or within the media and politics, you really do have to try to move the emotions, or you are just put down as just another angry woman. Just an emotional fragile female. Get back in the kitchen. But we are actually entitled to be angry that this is still happening and we’re still not actively trying to make large scale change

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The sexual abuse probably did lead me to be a lot more radical than I may have been. If all of that shit stuff didn't actually happen to me, I would probably be a totally different person, I guess with just a normal outlook on life. But I think all that stuff has completely radicalised my ideology and how I process social norms. 


We live in a PC society where we can't say this or that to upset people as it may break a social norm and make people uncomfortable. But these things are actually serious issues that we are trying to navigate. Making rape jokes and making racist jokes can actually trigger a very traumatic event in people's lives. Something could have happened to them yesterday and they still haven't even processed it within themselves. We have one of the highest rates of suicide in the world. And I think that is a lot to do with how our society is stunted when it comes to sharing emotions. How can you feel safe to share your emotions when everything is trivialised? There's no acknowledgment of the severity of these actions. 


People argue that New Zealand is so much better than other countries, claiming we aren't as misogynistic or patriarchal. That like saying if I chopped off Barry's leg and just chopped off your one finger, and then I won’t allow you to complain about your one finger being chopped off, because poor Barry is missing a whole fucking leg. They're both bad. They're just bad to different extents. You can't accept the broken finger just because the broken leg is worse.


The other thing that really frustrates me is that I hate it when people use other people as examples, like, oh look Susie got sexually abused and they have a job. Everyone responds to abuse differently. Somewhere in Scandinavia a woman actually decided to be euthanised, because the trauma that she received from sexual abuse was just too much for her, and she just didn't want to live anymore. 


The thing is, yes, you can completely reclaim your life, and your individuality and personality. But, you can't expect someone to forget their history. And you can't expect someone to never be triggered again. To never be upset again. It can affect how you view relationships from then on in. Relationships become much more difficult to have healthy positive communication. It’s probably one of the most difficult aspects after sexual abuse, because of the fact that sexual abuse is often done by the trusted people in your life, like family members and close family friends. 


We have such a punitive society, like you get punished in a sense for having mental illnesses and carry a stigma that follows you around like a visible black cloud. There is very little support as it is, and we are cutting funding for social services even further. Lots of services are being outsourced to privately run agencies and institutions, and they are only going to do stuff if they can make a profit. If our emotional health and accessing resources to heal is going to be dictated by capital, we’re all fucked, unless you’re one of the lucky few who come from wealth.

VoicesMegan Bowers-Vette