Jane's Story

I hope my story gives courage to others. With help we can recover from domestic violence and set a new path ensuring our own tamariki and mokopuna have a violence free childhood.


When I was a child, I was frightened to go to sleep at night
Jane's Story - It Hit You In The Heart

It hit you in the heart

Illustrations by: Kirstyn Hatton

When I was a child, I was frightened to go to sleep at night. I was particularly scared if my father was out because you never knew when he’d come home and whether there’d be a row, and I wouldn’t go to sleep until I knew what the outcome was.

My father used to beat my mother up, but we never saw that. That would happen in the bedroom late at night. We’d see the black eye or the cut lip. It was always presented as having been an accident, and it wasn’t until I was about 12 or 13 that I realised it wasn’t. We never talked about it. My mother knew that I knew but it was unspoken.

She would never know what it would be that could set my father off. He would often walk into the kitchen when he came home and sidle up to the stove and look in the pots. If he was in a good mood, that was fine. If he wasn’t, he’d lift the lids and say “don’t serve me that crap, I’m not eating it”. That would be the start, and it would go from there. A tirade of abuse would come out of his mouth.

We’d get out of his way. If one of us four kids dared to say anything we’d get belted. Our father used to deal to us as a group. If someone did something wrong and didn’t own up, we all got it. The unfairness of that was incredibly hard to deal with. I was the eldest and a very compliant, good child. I was too scared not to be.

We were lined up, knickers taken down, bent over the knee and properly belted with a strap. Often he’d take the belt out of his trousers. He was not a little man, and he could leave his hand marks on you just smacking you. I used to go to school with hand marks on my backside.

My mother was powerless, and so she wasn’t able to protect us from our father’s violence. In fact as we grew up, it was “wait till your father gets home” – because she didn’t know how to deal with us and she knew we were scared of him.

But I was mainly scared of my father because he was so unpredictable. You never knew how he was going to react. One day something you did was fine, but the next day you’d get a clip around the ear for the same thing. It would all depend on his mood.

That psychological stuff was much more damaging than the physical stuff – for my mother and also for me. My enduring memories are about the control he had over everyday life.

He didn’t let my mother do things. She was expected to be at home at lunchtime just in case he decided to come home for lunch. If he came home at any time and she wasn’t there, there was hell to pay. He censored her friends, and she wasn’t allowed to join women’s clubs or go out with the girls. If I wanted to go to a friend’s place, my mother wouldn’t dare let me go unless he knew about it.

He mucked up all the holidays, all the family occasions. If I brought a friend home he’d delight in bringing me down in front of them. He’d make personal comments – say I was fat, which I wasn’t, and stupid. Or he’d just lose his rag in front of them and shout and scream. So I just didn’t bring people home and from about the age of ten I didn’t want to go home myself.