and abuse to
“I honestly didn’t even think I’d get to 50 (years of age). I had no hope. Now, I’m just so thankful and I want to share my story with my family and people I meet because if I can be healed, then anyone can.”
Please be aware, that there are some details in the story below which may be difficult for some people to read.
Naomi remembers being abused for the first time when she was just 4 years of age. Her Father removed her from her grandparents (who had raised her up until that point) and her life took a traumatic turn from that point on. The sexual abuse began at age 7 and would continue for the next 10 years. The level of trauma Naomi suffered at the hands of her closest family members is horrifying.
Because she was not from the same iwi, Naomi’s stepmother (who was only 10 years older) and her family despised her. On more occasions that she can count, Naomi was sexual assaulted and tortured, and she will carry the scars on her body for the rest of her life.
“I was pinned down by my hands and burnt with the iron. After being accused of stealing once, I was stripped naked, thrown on the bed and whipped with the vacuum chord. My Father said to me ‘you’ll never do that to me again’ and wrapped the chord around my neck to strangle me. I begged him to do it, but looking into my little sisters eyes, knew if I died there would be no-one else to look after her. As long as I was getting the pain and not my sister, I could endure it.”
When Naomi’s stepmother was upset at her Father, it was Naomi who would pay the price.
“My Stepmother would strip me naked and put me in front of the heater until my skin blistered. I was tied up and had knives and high-heel shoes thrown at my head.”
Naomi’s most haunting memory is of being thrown repeatedly down the concrete steps at the back of the house. As a result, every time she saw similar steps she would have a panic attack and feel like she was suffocating.
Naomi ran away at the age of 7 or 8 because of the abuse. “I was thrown down those stairs and told to run back up to the top as fast as possible, just to be thrown down again. I remember the sound and the pain from bouncing off that concrete.”
As a child, when asked what she wanted to be when she was older, Naomi never had an answer. It took all her energy just to survive the day. She was made to eat mouldy bread or starve. At school she couldn’t learn because she was so hungry. She would pick apple cores out of the rubbish bin for food.
Naomi’s mother and stepfather were also perpetrators of the abuse. At age 15, after complaining of a headache, she was drugged and sexually assaulted by her mother. On another occasion, while sleeping with her sibling next to her, Naomi woke up to her Stepfather molesting her while he was having sex with her Mother.
I jumped out of bed and ran to the other room. All I can remember was my Mother pleading with me not to tell my Father. I would scrub myself in the shower because I thought I was so unclean. I thought I must have been plagued with something or there was something on me which is why people couldn’t leave me alone.
As a young person, Naomi had no one she could trust. Although she loved her grandparents dearly, even they didn’t keep her safe or put a stop to the abuse.
“I remember my Grandmother pleading with the GP not to report my parents to the police. He knew the injuries I’d suffered weren’t a result of me ‘falling over’ or ‘being clumsy’. My grandmother was more concerned that my Father and Stepmother would go to prison.”
In a misguided attempt to protect the family, Naomi’s Grandmother sent her to boarding school. Naomi thought she would be safe at last, but for three years was repeatedly raped by the maintenance person. “I put up with it, because at least it wasn’t my family doing it to me.”
It’s no wonder that Naomi become massively depressed. “I had been in an out of depression all my life and didn’t know it. It felt like I was walking around in a haze my whole life”, she says.
Having been admitted into the mental health system previously, Naomi pleaded with her doctor for help. She visited an Aunty who recommended she make contact with Te Whakaora Tangata. She didn’t do this straight away out of fear that one of the staff might be connected to her family in some way. It wasn’t until another Social Worker encouraged Naomi to reach out to Te Whakaora (after many of her other clients were raving about the programme), that she did. “I said, if you really believe they have done this for your clients, can you please take me to this place.”
Naomi’s healing began that day. When she first arrived at Te Whakaora and met some of the team, she says she felt so much peace. “I couldn’t understand how I could feel like that when I didn’t even know these people. They didn’t try to understand or tell me the solution or try to change how I was thinking about things. They just offered me a safe environment. Every other time I’d spent with counsellors, I would see them writing stuff down and knew in my gut they didn’t have the answers. The ones with qualifications didn’t have the experience and the ones who did have the experience, gave bad advice.”
Naomi attended the first session of the Family Restoration course and couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She identified with Cliffy and Indranee’s story. “The course showed me the healing that I needed. I made up my mind to go to every session.”
After attending the Family Restoration course, Naomi had a one-on-one counselling session with Cliffy and Indranee. “It was so miraculous”, she explains. “They do the least amount of talking and you finally have someone’s full attention to let it all out and talk about it. Because you’ve had the weeks of the course to build a relationship, it doesn’t feel like you’re talking to a stranger.” “I was in so much pain. But since that day, I’ve never had that pain. Nor the pain of grief, hatred and anger. I was able to just let it all go.”
Naomi is still aware of what her family did to her, but harbours no anger or ill-feeling towards her abusers. She says “It’s like watching someone else’s story in a movie. I can be with my parents and not feel terrible. I couldn’t have hoped for anything like this.”
I honestly didn’t even think I’d get to 50 (years of age). I had no hope. Now, I’m just so thankful and I want to share my story with my family and people I meet because if I can be healed, then anyone can.
Naomi and her family are now living well and continue to have a close association with Te Whakaora. As well as studying, Naomi volunteers her time to Te Whakaora and her family are regular attendees at our weekly Kia Kaha, group mentoring programme.