Te haerenga roa ki tōkū ūkaipō - the long journey home

“A person can inflict grievous damage on a soul, on a spirit, but the responsibility of healing lays solely on the shoulders of the victim.”

Since I was a little girl I have struggled with intense guilt and shame that breeds depression and anxiety in me. Physical and sexual abuse as a child laid a foundation built with layers of self-loathing and dysfunction. Ultimately, it changed the course of my life and set me up to endure years in an abusive marriage.

No matter how much inner work I’ve done over the past seven years since leaving my ex, the shame of my childhood has never completely dissolved.

The trauma of what my children and I experienced inside my marriage and then relived in Family Court afterward, prolonged the healing journey. Court restrictions imposed meant I could not return home to where my wairua was leading me to heal. I had to remain in a place isolated without my whanau during a period where my spirit was broken.

CPTSD, severe anxiety, panic attacks and persistent depression are the enduring effects of the abuse that was a takahi on my mana and my wairua. The processes of the Family Court perpetuated the trauma and abuse I was trying to get away from.

Worst critic

But the harshest person I’ve ever met on this journey is the inner critic inside me.

She was born from the voices and behaviours of people who were supposed to love and care for me but instead abused me. Maybe I will always struggle with it but it’s lessening with time.  Understanding it makes me feel a bit more in control.

Abuse changes things inside you. The damage is intangible and not easily articulated, or understood unless you have been through it too.

When it starts young it distorts your self-perception and normalises dysfunction. When you are treated as if you are nothing, you feel as if you are nothing. When you are treated as if you are worthless and don’t deserve kindness, those things become your inner core beliefs.


The one who abused me would go to school and brag about how I had performed sexual acts with him, and his friends would bully and taunt me about it, acting as if it was consensual. I felt disgusting. I felt like I was a paru little girl.

As a child I didn’t think anyone would believe me, those unseen dark forces that swirled around me in the form of unwanted sexual contact were shrouded in shame. As an adult, the abuse from my husband reinforced those core beliefs…. I’m worthless, I don’t deserve kindness. This is what I’m going to get for the rest of my life.

I grew up with a solo mum whodid the best she could with her knowledge and abilities. The best memories involve our big whanau on our whenua, sharing kai and just being together - whanaungatanga. I was exposed to the most beautiful layers of our culture that fostered a strong sense of shared whakapapa and belonging to a collective of people. The abuse made me feel unworthy and disconnected from where I belong but my wairua yearned to return home.

Forgiveness journey

Then I started my Family Court journey, fighting to protect my tamariki and myself, finding boundaries finally and turning towards understanding. I started to forgive myself for the things I didn’t know until I learned them. It was then I turned a corner.

When I started to nurture my inner child the way she should have been, I turned another corner. When I started to show myself compassion I turned a corner. I don’t know if this will help you but these things helped me.

A person outside yourself can be responsible for so much of your pain and damage. At the end of the day your healing journey is your own.

The saddest, yet powerful, thing I realised is that no one was coming to save me. So I saved myself.

I can’t change what happened to me, but I can change the meaning of those things in my life. I will continue to strip away the layers that never belonged and embrace the rediscovery of my own worth and potential.

Mauri ora

Gemma Edmonds

This story was published in partnership with the Humans of Family Court Aotearoa campaign.

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