From gold medallist to homeless: Auckland woman fearing for life

A former gold medallist has fallen on hard times, saying she is homeless, jobless and at serious risk of abuse from an ex-partner.

The mother-of-three won gold at the Commonwealth Games in British Columbia in 1994, and later came to live in New Zealand after falling in love with the country on a working holiday.

But after becoming involved in an abusive relationship and falling into depression while living in Auckland, she is unemployed and without a place to live.

She asked to remain anonymous and for some of her background to be kept secret because she fears for her family’s safety.

“I’m absolutely astounded about how I possibly have got into this situation,” she told the Herald.

“I never would have imagined back then in any way possible I would end up somewhere like here.

“Coming from that background, I was flying all over the world, competing, in the media and was quite a high achiever.

“Just to be at the bottom rung of society all of a sudden is completely shocking to me.”

She competed around the world, also winning medals at World Championships and getting selected for the Olympics.

Since retiring from sport she has gained a bachelor’s degree and has worked as a teacher in Auckland.

But her physical and mental health has deteriorated. Her sporting career left her with chronic back injuries, and she suffers from anxiety after being subjected to years of abuse at the hands of her ex-partner.

Her ex-partner was sentenced to 18 months’ jail for various offences including threatening to kill. He is expected to be released from prison next month.

The woman is about to be evicted from a women’s refuge in Auckland, because staff there do not believe she is in danger, she says.

She disagrees, saying her ex-partner poses a serious risk to her and her three children. She has a restraining order against him but he has breached it twice before.

“That’s why I’m so disgusted by the eviction at this crucial point in time,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the refuge said it had provided a lot of support to the woman. She had been there for five months. The average stay was two months.

“There isn’t an immediate safety issue; it’s an accommodation issue that they’re facing.”

“We are not an emergency accommodation provider. We provide accommodation that is safe and confidential when someone is at immediate risk.”

The spokeswoman said families who faced immediate risks had been turned away because there were too few refuge beds to meet the need.

Because the former gold medallist is from overseas, she has no family support in New Zealand.

The Ministry of Social Development has agreed to provide emergency housing for her family in a motel, beginning this week. She has only been guaranteed a place to stay for seven days.

But she said that did not provide her the protection she has had at the refuge and other shelters.

“We’re really unsafe because from a motel we can’t have this safety alarm, and there’s no protection around us if he or one his [accomplices] come in.”

She hopes that one day she’ll have a stable life again.

“I’m not a hopeless person. I have a degree, I am qualified as an early childhood teacher. I’ve always been a high achiever.

“But this relationship and the situation I’ve found myself in has ground me down.”

If you’re in danger now:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours or friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head to where there are other people.
• Scream for help so your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don’t stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it’s not your fault. Violence is never okay.

Where to go for help or more information:

• Women’s Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 – 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day – 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• It’s Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence: www.nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men’s violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz

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