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Victim details life-long trauma of family abuse – ‘I used to lie there and let her hurt me’

As the Abuse in Care inquiry turns its focus on foster care, victims of abuse are speaking out. This is the story of Christine and her sister of her.

Silhouettes and shadows of two women walking down the street.

Photos: 123rf

People who were abused and neglected while in foster care will be telling their stories of surviving in the system at hearings starting on Monday.

Christine*, 24, and her younger sister grew up in foster care after their mother had to go on mental health treatment.

She said the time in residential care was not what she expected.

“We will have our arms tied behind our backs, we were locked in our rooms for days, we would have our faces shoved into food if we didn’t eat it. Things thrown at us, us being thrown, our hair being pulled out .

“I remember I used to lie there and let her [the caregiver] hurt me and let her get angry at me and yell at me, and do whatever she wanted. But I only did that because I wanted her to feel okay, I knew how hurt she felt.”

She said her sister got the worst of it.

“She used to have needles shoved into her. She would be drugged a lot, because she reacted to the abuse. She tried to fight back and because of the fighting back it just got worse and worse for her.”

Latest police data shows domestic violence crimes rose by 33,000 incidents between 2018 to 2020, and only 33 percent of cases are reported.

In Christine’s case, getting help was not always easy.

“I went to my teachers to try and get some help. But when I told my teachers I had to set up a meeting with my caregivers. So they knew that I had told people about the abuse that was going on.

“Because of that I definitely got a hiding on the way home and I really regret telling anybody that anything had happened.”

She said it was tough to grow up without the support she needed.

“It was very confusing for a little child that grew up believing that (was) what love was.

“And I think it did take me a long time to realize that actually other people’s parents don’t always hurt their children the way they do, and they don’t let their trauma affect their children in the same way it happened to me. “

At the age of 21, Christine gave birth to her now 3-year-old daughter.

She said after all the abuse, she struggled to open to motherhood.

“A few months were really weird to me, because I had gone my whole life being dehumanized and I really had such bad anxiety by this point that I found it difficult to understand that I, myself, was a decent human being.”

Royal Commission Abuse in Care inquiry.

Photos: RNZ / Patrice Allen

A report from the Family Violence Death Review Committee says between 2009 and 2019, 292 deaths resulted from intimate partner violence, child abuse and neglect or family violence.

Committee chair Dr Fiona Cram said asking for help did not always mean receiving it.

“There’s a lot of people ignoring calls for help, or responding to calls for help by telling people what they should be doing.

“Actually what we need is a system that when someone asks for help, response is to support them to get that help.”

The “blaming culture” is a major factor in why victims are afraid to report domestic abuse, Dr Cram said.

“Because people get blamed then they’re actually seen as having to take responsibility and seek out care for themselves.”

More than 10 years of abuse and violence scarred Christine for a lifetime.

“When I got to about eight or nine-ish, I did sorta completely shut off. I stopped talking, I stopped trusting people. I only really talked with children. Just because I have given so much love for someone that was abusing me every day, and it really did bring me down.”

The Abuse In Case inquiry public hearing opens in Auckland this morning and will hear from both survivors and expert witnesses throughout the week.

* Name has changed to protect privacy.

Where to get help:

Need-to-Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email

What’s Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

Asian Family Services: 0800 862 342 Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm or text 832 Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm. Languages ​​spoken: Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and English.

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

OUTLine: 0800 688 5463 (6pm-9pm)

sexual violence

NZ Police

Victim Support 0800 842 846

Monkfish Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape Prevention Education

Empowerment Trust

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): 04 801 6655 – push 0 at the menu

Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334

Male Survivors Aotearoa

Family Violence

Women’s Refuge:(0800 733 843

It’s Not OK 0800 456 450

Shine: 0508 744 633

Victim Support: 0800 842 846

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): 04 801 6655 – push 0 at the menu

The National Network of Family Violence Services NZ has information on specialist family violence agencies.

abuse survivors

For male survivors-

Road Forward Trust, Wellington, contact Richard 0211181043

Better Blokes Auckland, 099902553

The Canterbury Men’s Centre, 03 3776747

The Male Room, Nelson 035480403

Male Survivors, Waikato 07 8584112

Male Survivors, Otago 0211064598

For female survivors –

Help Wellington, 048016655

Help, Auckland 09 623 1296.

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111


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