Making Aotearoa New Zealand
the best place to raise children
in flourishing families

Ceri’s story

The scars you can’t see are the hardest to heal. Ceri* knows that only too well. But what surprises her most is what saved her life: prison.

For many years Ceri was in a violent relationship. In fact, it was 18 hard years before she gathered the strength to leave her abusive partner.

“He was mentally and physically abusive. He gave me bruises and broken bones, he even sliced my arm open with a vase,” Ceri explains.

“The relationship was making me physically and mentally sick. I was arrested for willful damage and attempted arson when I tried to leave him and I had to spend three and a half months in prison.”

Although being incarcerated was the last thing Ceri thought she deserved, she says prison actually saved her life.

“Going to prison was the turning point for me. I had those months to reflect on my whole of my life. I think if I hadn’t been incarcerated he probably would have eventually killed me.”

While prison kept her safe from the physical and mental abuse, Ceri felt alone. She had moved to New Zealand from England with her husband.

“It was only me and him here in the country, we have no family here; I had given up my whole life to come over here,” Ceri explains.

“I saw the Family Works Out of Gate flyer on the noticeboard in Arohata Prison; I asked if they could help me, and they said ‘of course we can’.”

Ceri began working with a Family Works Out of Gate navigator while she was in prison, who helped her to prepare for release by discussing housing, transport, her financial plan, and reminding her that she’s not alone.

On release Ceri faced with another problem. Her husband had cleaned out their bank accounts and left her with nothing.

“I had no money, one pair of clothes and nowhere to go. He took absolutely everything from me. If my Family Works navigator hadn’t helped me I don’t know what I would have done.”

Ceri’s community navigator helped her find accommodation, meals, counselling and any other services she needed to get back on her feet again.

“It was a godsend that’s all I can say,” says Ceri.

Today, Ceri is working part time while studying to become a professional chef. She placed first in her first cooking competition and she will be a qualified chef by the end of the year.

“I feel like I’m finally making something of my life. He may have taken all the material things, but the one thing he couldn’t take away from me is me.”

The Out of Gate programme, funded by the Department of Corrections, sees Family Works working alongside women before and after release, helping them to identify what they need in order to settle back into the community without re-offending. Read more about the Out of Gate programme here.

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