TRUE STORY: THE FAMILY COURT MINIMISED THE ABUSE & DANGER AS HE WAS MY EX
TRUE STORY: A mother's fight to keep her child safe cost her $40,000 and exposed an unbelievable Family Court response that she blames in part for NZ’s terrible domestic violence statistics. She shares her story here to show that the current Family Court system does NOT protect women and children after they leave violence. She is calling for a public outcry against women and children being mistreated in this way.
THE FAMILY COURT MINIMISED THE ABUSE & DANGER AS HE WAS MY EX
I did my research before going to the Family Court. I had read all of the stories from parents and children who had been let down so terribly. And part of me didn’t believe it. I honestly thought my case would be different.
I didn’t enter the court on a whim. I did it through absolute desperation. The situation me and my child were in was dangerous and completely unsustainable. I was at my lowest point.
As it turns out that’s the worst time to approach lawyers. They see how desperate you are and see that as dollar signs. Just trying to stay safe cost me $40,000 in lawyers fees.
The most difficult thing I found when dealing with Family Court is that they minimised the abuse despite how clear the evidence was. I had an overwhelming amount of evidence of physical and psychological abuse: harassment; threats and intimidation spanning years.
No one ever said to him that what he was doing wasn’t OK. I just wanted one person to say it, to tell him his behaviour was abhorrent. The abuse I sustained was real. Very very real. But the Family Court tried to make out it wasn't that bad; that the danger to my child and me wasn't real.
The reality is that his abuse was criminal behaviour. If I had been a stranger he would have been arrested for how he treated me. Can you imagine the outcry in the New Zealand press if a a 6 foot man punched a stranger in the face with a closed fist when she was pregnant? How shocked the country would be that someone could do such a thing. The harassment went on for two and a half years AFTER I had left the relationship and was escalating. If a stranger harassed and stalked a female for that long it would surely be responded to by the authorities. So why does our Family Court allow it to happen and then almost pretend it never did?
The court relied on trying to say the abuse was historic. Even though the daily harassment (literally thousands of pages of texts and emails) only stopped when a Temporary Protection Order was granted, they still kept talking about historic abuse. It wasn’t historic!!
I feel like the court have said it’s OK that he was violent towards us. That because we were once in a relationship and had a child what he did was OK. In omitting to tell him and me that it wasn’t OK they have condoned his behaviour. It’s made me feel worthless, like me and my child don’t matter.
I’ll do what I can to help give myself and other women and our children a voice. I consider myself well educated and articulate and not afraid to say what is needed. My concern, other than for myself and my child, is for those women who have less of a voice, less resource, and/or less support. Because if I have found this process a nightmare mess then I’m confident there are many who are even more terrified by it all.
Women research and talk to other women before they go to the Family Court; we know from their stories how bad it is. When we do go it is out of desperation. But if we decide not to go to the Family Court there is nowhere else to turn. We are told to speak out and have a voice. But when we do speak out we are not believed.
Hundreds of women are silenced and made to feel like they are exaggerating and making a fuss. It all seems to come back to one thing. If I enter into a relationship with a man who goes on to abuse me sexually or with violence etc then I’m stuffed. I’m immediately pushed to the Family Court where I am not believed and the violence is minimised. But if someone commits these acts outside of a relationship then people actually take it seriously. The police can act, the courts listen and the media can cover it.
The Family Court is creating a very dangerous situation for women and children in New Zealand. It’s shocking. It’s third world and it’s unacceptable. We have the worst domestic violence statistics. I know why; because even when we finally ask for help, no one does help. Or not the courts anyway.
We need a public outcry to demand women's voices are validated and responded to safely in the Family Court.
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about the backbone collective
New Zealand has the highest rate of women experiencing violence and abuse in the developed world, which is due in part to our broken response system.
The Backbone Collective is an independent body taking action to change New Zealand's dire statistics by examining the response system through the eyes of its users - women who have experienced violence and abuse.
Please join us as either a woman who has experienced violence or abuse, or as a volunteer who wants to help by volunteering your time, services or expertise.
Many reports have been written about where the system is broken but they have fallen on deaf ears. We think that Government and others in a position of power will start listening when hundreds, and potentially thousands, of women speak up about what needs to change.