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Janine's personal story

My son lived for 13 years with a woman he met as a very young man. The relationship had issues because his partner had been abused as a child and lived in a family where violence was normal. He survived as long as he did in this relationship by living his own separate life whilst still with her. He was promoted at work and moved offshore. She did not want to go. Being away from her gave him the courage to finally leave her. Once the separation was finally settled he announced on Facebook that he and his partner were no longer together.

Within days he was contacted by a woman his age. A NZer living in Melbourne. They met and found that they had grown up in the same area. Things moved quickly. He brought her home to meet us pre Christmas 5 years ago now. She spent the first hour of our meeting telling us what an amazing family she had and how she loved them but did not spend more than a couple of hours with them on this trip home. A few weeks later our son came home to NZ for Christmas while she stayed and partied with friends in Australia.

The phone calls were worrying. He would be enjoying time with this nieces and nephews then his phone would ring and his mood would change. Eventually after a few of these calls he cut his trip home short and returned to Melbourne and waited at her flat for her to return. Within weeks of Christmas she became pregnant. Her family greeted this news with suspicion and we were confused. They lost the baby but she became pregnant again very quickly. They came home together a few months before the baby was born. During that visit there appeared to be a breakdown in the relationship between the woman and her family. Our son claimed the family were saying nasty things about his partner and whispering behind closed doors about them. They did not come back to NZ the next Christmas claiming the child was too young to travel. We had visited when the child was born and found things were more than a little strained.

Each time we visited we were told increasingly horrific stories about this woman's past relationship with both her family and other partners. Story that indicated that she was the subject of continued abuse in all those relationships. When the child was 13 months old they came home again this time to go on a Christmas holiday with our entire family. This is the first time we saw the degree of abusive, rough and threatening behaviour on her part towards both my son and our grandchild. We were shocked. In the February following that holiday our son called to say she had lashed out and punched him in the head whilst he was holding the baby, both he and the baby had bruises on their faces. He had left the house and was calling me whilst driving towards a work colleague's home where he intended to stay.

My advice to him now seems so stupid. I told him to go back to stay and ensure that the baby was safe. I went to Melbourne and tried to get him some legal help. All the advice indicated that he would struggle to get the courts to believe he was the one being abused. That with her history of convincing people that she was the victim it was likely that he would be blamed. I spoke with her family here in NZ who confirmed for the first time that this woman had a significant illness, that yes as a child her birth mother and partner had abused her, but that she had finally been rescued by her father and stepmother and had lived with them since she was 9 years old without any abuse in that family whatsoever.

My son decided to go back to the relationship as his partner agreed to counselling. She never went, then suddenly they were having another child. After the second child things became much worse, she attacked our son with knives, locked the little one outside for punishment, and was rough with the new baby. No one was allowed to have anything to do with the new baby including our son. Bit by bit over this time she alienated our son from firstly her family and his own. We tricked her into coming back to NZ this last Christmas and forced her into psychiatric care. Eventually they went back to Melbourne where she has all but completely shut his family out of his life.

I am currently the only one he still talks to. He understands and I agree with him that if he was to just GET OUT he would have to leave the kids behind at least initially. Even if he got 50% custody the kids would need to spend 50% of their life with an abusive parent without the second parent there to rescue them if things got really bad. So he stays. The most difficult part of all this is how this woman behaves outside this relationship, she is so convincing to other people about how loving and caring she is when in reality our son does all the work with the children. Our biggest fear is that she will kill him or the kids before they can safely get away.

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