READER REPORT:

'I'm stuck here as his slave'

NAME WITHHELD*
Last updated 06:00 26/07/2013

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Nights are the worst. I spend nights leaning against my door listening as the man I loved calls me a whore over and over again.

I sit there listening to this, telling myself I just have to make it until 10 o'clock when he'll go to bed and leave me alone for the night.

We've been separated for two months. I desperately want to leave but he tells me that if I leave with no where to go, he'll keep our son and go for full custody.

I tried Work and Income, begged for their help. They told me unless he was physically hitting me they couldn't help. They gave me a $100 food grant and sent me on my way after telling me to get a loan so I could get out. After all, by asking for help while still living with him I was clearly ripping off the system, not just wanting some financial support so I could get a bond and move out.

All my tax refunds from earlier in the year had gone into our mutual savings, in a bank account solely under his name. I reviewed the circumstances. I had $47 to my name. If he found out I had gone to WINZ I would be dead meat. I used the food money to buy canned goods to stock the cupboard with. I didn't know how long they would need to last me.

Today I finally found the courage to call Women's Refuge. My heart was racing. Silently in my head I was begging for the help to get me out of here. I have a 2-year-old relying on me for food and shelter.

"Why don't you just leave?" she asked, like it's that easy to just up and go. What would I eat? Where would we sleep? If we had somewhere to go I would have gone two months ago.

I've never been in this situation before, how I am supposed to know what to do? Work and Income couldn't even tell me what support I was entitled to or where to go for help.

"Just leave, find somewhere to go?", the lady at the end of the phone tells me. Like it's that easy, I would stay in Hell with the devil himself if it meant my son got fed and had a roof over his head.

If this is the support for women in this country (or men in the same situation) it's poor at best. I'm still stuck here. No doubt tonight I'll find myself curled behind my door as I hear about all my faults again and again, constantly reminded by him that I'm stuck here as his slave because he knows I have nowhere to go.

I understand that people do try to rip off the system but what happens to me when he decides he doesn't need to feed me (which he has decided once before - turns out a fainting woman isn't very good at watching a 2-year-old while he was at work) or that I'm taking up space, or not doing my job right.

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Sure, if he kicks me out, I'm safe from him, but I wouldn't have my son, and where would I sleep at night?

The system is trap for women like me, we just get stuck in a hole we can't get out of.

* The author's name has been withheld to protect her identity. 

If you are struggling with issues of domestic abuse and need help, call 0800 456 450 or see areyouok.org.nz.


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