Jane's Story
I grew up thinking I was worthless, thick, dumb, fat and stupid

Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors that was the realisation for me. It was so heartbreaking and I think the women that do get free are so amazing.

Kirstyn Hatton

Eventually, hopefully, the messages will get through. I think it is just a matter of time and education and people saying ‘enough is enough’ and this is not how we want to be as a society. It’s a universal thing, but New Zealand has high rates of child abuse and family violence.

Although people might be horrified by the rates of family violence that have been revealed lately, a lot of this has come about because people are coming forward instead of hiding it. I think it is positive because we are beginning to talk about it as a society, and are not accepting it any more.

We are beginning to stand up as a society and say we won’t tolerate this. However, these sorts of changes can take a generation.

But you can break the mould. I managed to do that in my own family. Despite my background, I have managed to provide my children with a very secure and happy family life. They have had the upbringing that is every child’s right – a right, not a privilege. It’s not about having lots of money – although obviously the stress caused by poverty can exacerbate family violence – it is about kids growing up in a safe environment with adults who love and care for them. My children grew up expecting to go to university and to do well and they have.

We are a no-violence family. You don’t need to hit your children to get them to behave. In fact by hitting or yelling you are teaching them that this is how you get what you want. My children will tell you that they knew they were in real trouble when I used my quiet controlled voice. It is this sort of stand that helps break cycles of violence. I was lucky and was able to see from a young age that life didn’t need to be the way I experienced it and I turned things around. However, if you never see or realise that your experience is not the norm, you assume that is how all families are, and you will continue to treat your children in the way you were treated because it is the only way you know.

Not having a secure family base makes life harder but if you’ve got violence in a family, I don’t think parents should stick together. People who don’t get on together shouldn’t stay together ‘for the sake of the children’ because it doesn’t do them or the children any good.

While those years during which my mother was bringing up four children on her own were a nightmare in many ways, at least there wasn’t the threat of violence from my father hanging over her or us children. In reality, had the relationship survived she wouldn’t be where she is now. For many years now she has felt secure and happy.

She has her own home and is surrounded and loved by her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren – and most importantly, she has the freedom to go where and do as she pleases.

I don’t know how I managed to become comfortable in my skin despite my troubled childhood. However, through it all I had a close relationship with my mum and I experienced unconditional love. I don’t feel bitter, and I never have. I wouldn’t be the person I am, and I wouldn’t have achieved what I have had life been different. If my family circumstances had been ‘normal’ – that is, if my father hadn’t left – I would have grown up in a family where expectations were not particularly high. If anyone had told me in my teens that I would go to university, gain a doctorate and get a position as an academic I would have said they were mad. I think my background has given me many opportunities, because while I work in a university it means I am well grounded and I understand, and can relate to, people from all walks of life, and that brings big advantages.

So thinking about how I survived those early violent circumstances and managed not to let them pollute my adult life, I think it was a combination of things. For a start, I am a naturally positive person – the supreme optimist!

Also, I had some very caring adults in my life – my mother and several excellent teachers who saw my potential and encouraged me. And in my adult life, I have been blessed by having an extremely supportive partner – and a pinch of good luck to top it off.