Jane's Story


Three decades on, I still blame myself.

"You had better go in the garage and get your cat because he's going to kill it," my mother said to me, aged 11, as she came back into the house.

I don't think she believed he really would.

I certainly didn't think him capable of violence against a small kitten.

So I walked to the garage.

I walked - I should have run.

It's a burden I will carry forever.

He was one of those alcoholics who when he wasn't drinking he was a really nice person.

The alcohol just turned him into this crazy, jealous, paranoid, controlling guy, who was mentally and physically abusive to my mum.

She used to put me in the back room but I could hear them fighting and see the bruises on her afterwards.

He threw an ashtray at me once, but more often with me it was intimidation: yelling and abuse if you did something wrong, said something wrong or didn't do something quick enough.

At first, I thought it was normal.

I went to a friend's house once and her parents were all lovey dovey and nice and sweet and kind and I just thought, "what's wrong with them? Why are they not yelling at each other? Why are they not throwing things?"

You normalise it.

Animals were just objects to him.

He didn't have any appreciation of the companionship and the love that you can get from, and give to an animal.

I remember once he went up to my dog and kicked it really hard in the stomach.

It started wailing and I ran over to hug and kiss it and he started yelling at me, 'what are you teaching the dog? I've just kicked it because it did something wrong and now you're trying to make it better?'

I begged my mother to leave.

She was a strong, independent woman and I think she thought that because he was so lovely most of the time that she could change him, which is often what happens.

She's since told me it was also because it was her second marriage, and she felt ashamed that she'd failed again.

But one day, it came to a head.

My kitten Hope had done a wee in the garage - on a concrete floor - but that was enough to set him off.

He picked up my shoe and threw it as hard as he could.

I saw it just as I walked in. I just think if I'd been a bit quicker I could have stopped that from happening.

The sound of her crying, you just don't get that stuff out of your head.

I still have a scar on my wrist from when I held her on the way to the vet.

But it was too late.

Mum told the vet a lamp fell on her.

I knew the vet didn't believe her.

I remember her saying to me afterwards: "I always taught you not to lie and now here I am lying to cover up for what he did. Enough is enough."

Ironically, my kitten's name was Hope and I like to believe that as awful and traumatic as that incident was, my mum had hope because she was able to make the decision to leave.

I know if Pet Refuge had existed, I would have taken my cat and dog there.

It's kind of unbelievable we don't have something like this already, given our culture of violence in New Zealand.

I've heard many stories of how women get stuck, fearing for their animals - because they are like a member of the family.

It's just awful to think that somebody could hurt something so innocent and defenceless, as a blackmail tool, to make someone stay.

I hope Pet Refuge means other children don't experience what I did.