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Hear me RAW

Hardly a day goes by that the media’s headlines do not feature some reference to female abuse in our country.

One of the most sickening cases this week has come with the arrest of the father of a 15-year-old Muslim teenager after allegedly beating and detaining his daughter, and forcing her to hide her facial injuries beneath a burqa.

I cannot and will not stand by while we as a nation continue to undervalue women. I surround myself with some of the most capable women New Zealand has to offer through business and other organizations every day and I have made it my personal priority to ensure they respect and value themselves as I do… but I cannot be there for every woman in New Zealand.

It is a fact that in this country we have a frightening underbelly that continues to erode the quality of lives of a significant number of families in our communities.

Women continue to be the victims of a cycle of negativity, hopelessness and violence. Like frightened puppies treated with disdain and cruelty they seem not to be able to break free, desperate to find affection and a place to belong.

We all know a friend, a colleague or a family member who at one time in their lives has been a victim of this violence. The emotional and physical abuse that they endure become their norm. A black eye, repeated rape, emotional blackmail / manipulation and constant physical threat contrive and conspire to make for a broken soul.

These are the women that are charged with bringing up their next generation – our country’s future.

Invisible to most and more sadly invisible to even themselves; it is these women who turn to Women’s Refuge as a last resort; looking initially for some respite and at best, a way out of their destructive cycle of life.

So how do we make a real change…

In 2014 I will be launching RAW (Reclaiming Another Woman). It is a simple yet effective concept that allows women like myself to agree to mentor / walk alongside a woman who is ready to try to exit Women’s Refuge and begin to re-build her life. We will be piloting this in the Waikato

I was recently introduced to a woman from refuge who inspired this entire cause and who will be my own first personal mentoree. When we first met she shared with me her harrowing story of a life of abuse and neglect. I left our first meeting feeling extremely raw and incredibly fortunate… hence the namesake.

Through RAW, myself and other capable women will set aside the time to lend a guiding hand and perhaps become a trusted ear and confidante. With this one-on-one support, from someone who will never judge but always listen and has certainly lived a very different life, I know that these women can begin to identify new pathways forward, begin to explore a range of new options and hopefully ignite some very necessary self-belief.

This is a model that simply requires one woman to care enough to give some of her time to another woman.

The ‘mentor’ offers company, support and friendship and together they can endeavour to break what is an extremely vicious and destructive cycle within this country.

Programs in place today in New Zealand appear to have varied success in getting women to stay out of the situations they have left.

RAW’s goal is to change this – one woman at a time.