Margaret's Story

I hope readers of my story will realise we should not accept anything less than being treated with respect, dignity and safety in our relationships. My story shows that when we make a stand ourselves, we make a stand for our children too, and so we start to change the future.


I remember seeing mum lying flat on the floor, having been knocked out - several times
Margaret's Story - Those are clouds that are covering the sun

Those are clouds that are covering the sun

Illustrations by: Caley Wiki

I remember seeing Mum lying flat on the floor, having been knocked out – several times. Dad would stop at the pub on the way home, and then there’d be arguments that would become quite violent. Dad would call Mum names like “black bitch” because she was Maori and he was Pakeha. The shouting and yelling was always frightening, and we never stopped feeling fearful – not for ourselves, but for Mum.

My eldest sister would herd the other six of us out on to the lawn and run over to the neighbours and call the police. They’d come round, two of them, and talk my father down, and then just leave. No one intervened. It was very much ‘this is private’. People didn’t think it was their business, or perhaps they were afraid that if they intervened, they’d get it.

I suspect both sides of the family knew about the violence but I don’t recall anyone ever coming round to support Mum. Her family was quite estranged. Her mother had died as a result of family violence. She had been regularly horsewhipped, and her husband had given her a beating when she was heavily pregnant with my mother. She had run off into the bush where she went into labour and died giving birth.

My mother and her siblings were fostered but the foster family was only doing it for the money and treated the children like slaves. My mother was raped by one of the uncles. She went out to the toilet at night and he grabbed her. Her older brother found her and cleaned her up. The response from the foster family was that it was over and done with and no one was going to talk about it again, but the uncle was not allowed back into the house. I was in my thirties when I found out that my mother had been raped as a child and I thought, “My poor mother – did anyone do anything for you except your older brother?”

Their father was away working but when he visited he beat the kids. He used to horsewhip one of the older girls and I think the trauma of that created the mental instability she suffered from, but I suspect she was also raped at the foster home.

Mum was quite a strong woman with strong opinions, and she wasn’t diminished by the beatings my father gave her. She would argue back. She’d challenge Dad about his drinking and say that we couldn’t afford it as a family. We thought it was the right thing to tell Mum that we’d seen Dad’s car outside the pub, but we soon learnt to shut up about that.

She kicked Dad out when I was about four or five. He used to come round and visit. At one point he threatened to commit suicide and Mum said “go do it” – so that tactic didn’t work. I’m not sure what led to their getting back together, but this was before the DPB and Mum only had the Child Benefit, which wasn’t much.

One day during an argument Mum picked up a broomstick and hit Dad over the head. She also smashed his car windscreen, possibly during the same argument. After that the beatings stopped, but nothing else did. There was still the shouting, the yelling, the name calling.