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Opinion piece by Bev Adair
4 August 07
Abuse, My Story
Adair tells what it is like to be a child at risk
know how it feels to have a life of apparently no value to
anyone. I was born in 1952 in Otahuhu, the middle child of ten
children. My Dad was European and my mother was Maori. Both
were alcoholics. My mother was a street girl as well.
my earliest years I lived with violence. I remember knives,
blood on walls, being beaten, being locked up in cupboards,
being molested by my Dad, being used by my mother's men
friends - she put me on show for them.
remember sitting in the gutter outside the hotel waiting for
my mother. When she finally came we used to hide down the back
of the garden. We knew if Dad got home and everything wasn't
perfect then we'd all get it – especially my mother – and
his hobnailed boots could make quite a dent in a body.
I was nine, my Dad was jailed for molestation. I was taken to
the Papakura police station in a car, put in a room, and given
away to foster parents. I had little contact with my mother
after that. I visited my father in jail and never saw him
again. Abuse by foster dads followed.
ten of us children were separated. I lived in seventeen
different foster homes and attended seventeen schools.
Although there was stigma in being a Maori foster child,
school was mostly a good experience for me. I had some caring
teachers and I did well in sport. In fact I was a netball and
athletics representative for my schools and districts.
does abuse affect a child?
had “shame” written across my forehead. You couldn’t see
it - it was hidden deep within me. I used to hide, only coming
out when I felt safe. It takes a lot of the right kind of love
and care to right the wrongs in the lives of abused and
neglected children. They grow up into teenagers and adults but
the child within them stays shamed and hurt. We must do
something as a community to love this hurt and pain out of the
lives of these children who are filled with heartache and
shame. Our children are paying a huge price for the fact that
we are ignoring those silent screams in so many of the homes
in our Nation…..
is a dark place that eats at the heart of who you are. I could
always see this young girl – me - looking up into the faces
of those all around, searching for a safe place, trying to
find an adult who would help me and love me in the way that a
child should be loved. Something in me died back then and I
have spent a lifetime trying to get back what was taken from
me: my sense of value and my sense of being valuable. My
father took that from me, and all of the other adults that
allowed it to happen, helped to rob me as well.
paid such a high price for the lack of a safe loving
environment in which to grow up. Somebody somewhere must have
seen. “Why the silence”, I have asked myself so many
times. I was just a baby - why didn’t someone save me? Why
wasn’t I worth fighting for? Why didn't the adults in my
home stop my mother from putting me on show and allowing her
men friends to do what they did to me? Where were the Maori
Elders and Whanau?
and sexual abuse robs you, deep within, and you lock yourself
away just to survive. You lose all sense of feeling because
‘to feel’ brings pain. You learn to hide away, never to
let people get close. Your ability to trust others and believe
in yourself is destroyed. You lose feeling – that’s why
abused children sometimes cut themselves – it’s the only
way to find out whether you are still alive. You lose the
ability to love and be loved – there’s a deep cry from
within that screams to be let out but you can’t because you
are moving from home to home.
foster homes. You are their foster child for a reason:
they’re doing their duty; their kids need a slave; they need
a companion. I was not blonde, blue eyed or cute, so I
wasn’t really wanted. You learnt to comply if you wanted to
stay. You had to try to be everything to everyone so they
would want to keep you. But in the end you didn’t know who
the deep, deep pain - deeper than you can possibly express –
that’s the hardest to deal with. Words cut deep. The scars
heal, but the words and actions against a child, scars them
for life. I had been through 17 homes and schools, terrible
physical and sexual abuse, my father jailed for abusing me,
divorce, the death of my daughter, loneliness, no-one to call
Mum or Dad, no white picket fence, no family to love and
then things changed and my life was never the same again. It
was April 15 1973 when I had a personal encounter with God. I
learnt to trust again, to realise that I am valuable, that I
do have a future, that I could experience a love beyond
anything that I thought was possible for someone like me. God
has made the defining difference to all my choices from that
day to this; my inner strength has come from that experience.
‘I AM NOT A VICTIM’. I will not allow those people to rob
me anymore; they took enough of my life.
can rob us for life - or we can choose to break the cycle.
That’s what I did. We have to ‘get over ourselves’, our
inadequacies and insecurities – all the ‘stuff’ that
life has handed to us - and for the sake of our children and
the future, join together and find some real answers.
way forward for New Zealand is to face up to the reality of
what is happening. Things should have improved since my
childhood but it hasn’t. Instead things have got a whole lot
have to get rid of welfare benefits - or at least have to work
to receive one and then only for a set time. We have stop
living in isolation and stop being so selfish. Children have
to stop having children. We as a society must stand up and
take ownership of what is happening.
communities must admit that we have a problem: we need our
fathers to stand up and be fathers, and mother to be the
nurturers that they were born to be.
more welfare - get people into work and stop the drinking and
the drug-taking. Our kids need adults to take responsibility
for their lives and for the lives of their families. Our boys
and our girls are desperate for a Mum and a Dad who will love
and nurture and care for them, helping them to become all they
were intended to be.
have to stop all this PC stuff and call it like it is. Stop
blaming everyone else for our problems. Instead we must look
at what we can do for ourselves.
MORE HANDOUTS: why is it that all of the programmes that are
working and making a difference in our communities are not
funded (with no strings attached) by this government? Don’t
they want successful programmes or would they rather spend
huge amounts of money keeping the administrators employed?
believe in personal responsibility and asking for help when
needed. Our communities have to reach out to help each other
and we have to intervene for the sake of our children: we can
make smoking unacceptable and make sure seat belts are worn,
so why can’t we make it unacceptable to form bad
relationships and go from one relationship to another? Why
can't we try to make better partner choices so we can make a
stable caring home for our children?
and alcohol and the break down of the family are at the heart
of the child abuse problem. How many more talk fests do we
have to have to wake up to that fact? I don’t believe
poverty is as big an issue as we are lead to believe. It is a
factor, for sure, but that’s not an excuse to harm our
babies as there are countries with real poverty and they
don’t brutalise their children. We have to stop making
excuses; instead we have to own the problem and do something
another child is killed and maimed; why can’t we hear the
am a Maori Mum and Nana and it tears my heart out to see the
devastation and brokenness of our young people and children.
We have so much going for us as a race. Like all races we have
our faults, but let’s own them and not be so precious and
hear the cries of the children. Come on, men and women of New
Zealand. Come on, elders of our tribes. Come on, the Maori
Party. Come on one and all, whatever your race or creed,
let’s stand up and own these problems and do something about
them. Each moment we wait another one of our precious babies -
born with so much potential and with such a great future - is
being brutalised and damaged.
please hear the deep scream of our children. The silence is
deafening. Never in all of our history has it been so
‘cool’ to be Maori. Never have we been so well represented
in all sectors of life. BUT WHAT ARE WE DOING WITH IT ALL?
NO to drugs and alcohol
a good work ethic
hiding behind our culture as an excuse for not working
rid of the lie that the world owes us anything
the acceptance of violence in our culture
the acceptance of incest
on Mums and Dads - be the adults you are meant to be, and if
you don’t know how to parent, then find out!
children need adults, not best friends; they need us to be
their parents not their mate…
children need to know their boundaries
must become a priority
allow the so called ‘shame’ of not being educated
yourself, to stop you asking for help; your children will love
you for trying…
at who we allow near our children
responsibility for our children
are the primary care giver regardless of the extended family
must nurture your children and make sure they have the right
friends in their lives…
children are desperate for heroes and you as their parents
should be that hero. Don’t give that away to celebrities and
sports people. Sure it’s nice to have them, but have you
looked closely at the lives of these so call celebrities? Have
a closer look – it is you who should be influencing your
child …and for good!
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