Kōrero: Child abuse

Child abuse – a personal story

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J. Smith submitted this account of being abused in foster homes and by his step-grandfather.

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Well where do I start? I was born in Christchurch, New Zealand. I’m 23 years of age and this is my story. When I was five, my family left me and I was put into foster care for about two years. During my time in these homes I was sexually and physically abused. I was always told that I was nothing, a worthless person, that my family wanted nothing to do with me and that’s why I was put into foster care. I was beaten, thrown down stairs and pulled up by my hair. I remember one day I was in the bathtub crying because I just wanted someone to love me, and because of the crying my head was pushed under water. I started crying myself to sleep at night because I feared the abuse if someone caught me crying again. I never was given a chance to celebrate my birthday, which didn’t really matter at that point because the only thing that I had hoped for was a loving family.

When I turned seven, my grandparents were given custody of me so I was out of the foster care system and very excited. I thought this was the best thing to ever happen, but that feeling would change dramatically two weeks after I got there.

One morning I woke up and my Nana had already gone to work, so it was just my step-grandfather and me there. As I was about to get out of bed, he walked into my room and sat down … taking total advantage of me. He forced me out of my bed and into the shower where he sexually abused me.

He continued to do this to me for months. One day I asked him, ‘What would you do if I told someone?’ He pulled out his belt, smacked me and said, ‘If you tell anybody I will hurt you. I will send you back to foster care and you will have nobody.’ I never wanted to go back to foster care, so I had to deal with the abuse for nine years. This man took my childhood days, my self-esteem, my trust and my life. I was turned into this boy who lived in fear daily and carried the shame of who I was. Each day of my life was a living hell.

As a teenager, I couldn't live in this world I was in, and desperately wanted to get out. I started inflicting pain on myself … I was admitted to the hospital so many times until I was 18. I was in pain and mentally in another world.

Finally my step-grandfather was put in jail for 13 years, on 21 charges of sexual abuse.

My self- inflicted harm and suicidal thoughts stopped when I was 21. Here I am today … I almost lost my life more times than I can count due to the abuse, and to this day I still cannot work out how I survived. I have been through hell and I have seen some things that a child should never witness or experience at such a young age, but I have come to believe this: if you can live through the worst times of your life, you can live through anything. Your life is beautiful even if one person or many people try and take it from you. You will get days that you just want to give up but you don't, you keep on marching and moving forward. All I can say is, just live your life how you want it. As we get older we learn, as we learn, we succeed, and when we succeed, we achieve greatness and we know we can overcome anything.

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Te tuhi tohutoro mō tēnei whārangi:

Bronwyn Dalley, 'Child abuse - Understanding child abuse', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/community-contribution/44312/child-abuse-a-personal-story (accessed 15 July 2024)

He kōrero nā Bronwyn Dalley, i tāngia i te 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 7 Jan 2024