THE most dangerous time for women trapped in an abusive relationship is after the relationship ends, says child-abuse and domestic-abuse survivor Kristen Dunne-Powell.
Mrs Dunne-Powell was speaking at an anti-family-violence hui in Tikitiki yesterday.
It was after the break-up that many women were murdered, she said.
One such victim was Otago University student Sophie Elliott who died from multiple stab wounds in a frenzied attack by ex-boyfriend Clayton Weatherston.
With Sophie’s mother Lesley Elliott, Mrs Dunne-Powell co-founded the Sophie Elliott Foundation, which aims to prevent violence towards women through education and awareness.
Mrs Dunne-Powell told the room full of men — many of whom had bashed their wives and children themselves — of her own experience.
“You are in a relationship with someone who tells you he loves you but who acts as if he hates you.
“It confuses your mind. Abuse is a deliberate, systematic thing in order to gain power and control over someone. When I was abused I felt I was worthless.
Shame prevented her from turning to friends for help. Her abuser had such power and control over her life, she protected him.
“I learned the conditions of the relationship so as not to provoke abuse . . . but nothing worked. It was like walking on shifting sands.”
To prevent her from leaving the relationship, he threatened to kill himself and promised to get counselling.
Although severely injured by her partner in the most violent attack she experienced during the relationship, Mrs Dunne-Powell still felt at fault.
For six months, she was unable to tell her father or brothers about the attack. She could not stand the thought of more violence.
“It can be a male reaction, to meet violence with violence. It is important to remember as men, violence causes violence.
Before telling her story, Mrs Dunne-Powell asked the room of men in the wharenui to think of her as their daughter or niece.
“By pledging to the white ribbon, you stand up for me and for women like me. Whatever role you take, you are protecting your daughter, wife, mother. By pledging, you educate others.
“You are brave to stand up and say ‘it’s not OK’.
“You will not only not commit violence against women, but you will also not condone, or stay silent, about it.”