An Auckland school teacher has been labelled an abuser by the daughter of a woman who was hospitalised with horrific bruises and bitemarks after being assaulted.
Feeling as though she has no other option, Ana - not her real name - is hesitantly speaking out on the condition of anonymity to raise awareness about the seriousness of violence against women in New Zealand.
Ana says her mother's toxic relationship with the primary school teacher has torn their family apart, and despite being left with terrible injuries, is refusing to lodge a formal complaint with police.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, Ana woke up to a daunting message from her mother in the family's group chat: "HELP."
Ana's siblings, grandparents and wider family became overwhelmed with stress. Her uncle called the police and another uncle went to her home while the wider family waited for an update.
At 8am, she got a call from her brother who told her he was at Middlemore Hospital with their mum. Ana and her husband rushed to be by her side.
She says there's "no words" to describe the feeling of seeing her so broken.
In graphic photos seen by Newshub, a large red, blue and purple bruise stretches along the side of her face from beneath her eye, covers her cheek and extends down underneath her chin. In another picture, bright red blotches run from the tips of her swollen fingers, up her arm, toward her elbow.
A small open wound sweeps across her index finger knuckle while deep purple bruising marks other sections of her hand.
Ana says her mum told her the teacher "was biting and twisting her hand" during the incident. As Ana has been trying to encourage her mum to leave the man for good for some time, she says their mother-daughter bond has been lost, and their relationship is in tatters.
"It was kind of like a bomb waiting to explode with this man," she told Newshub.
"She didn't have much to say to me when I got there. She already knew I was going to say to her."
Despite being urged by a number of different parties, Ana's mum won't file a complaint with the police and is instead still determined to make it work with the allegedly abusive partner.
"She's in denial of the fact that he would do it again,” Ana says.
It is estimated 76 percent of family violence incidents are not reported, according to Women's Refuge chief executive Ang Jury.
Twelve women were killed by a partner or ex-partner in 2019, the worst year for intimate partner violence in ten years.
"My whole family is really upset. We can't tell her what to do, we can't force her out for her own good, and we really don't know what to expect," Ana says.
She says to make matters worse, her mum is really sick - unintentionally dropping weight from a size 14 to a size 8 this year.
"That's what we really fear, not knowing what to expect with her health and because of what is happening with her with this."
Full of pain and frustration, she says she doesn't have a message for her mother right now but the door is always open if she ever decides to want to find her independence again.
She's gained a deeper understanding of difficulties victims face, and the pain it may take to get out but Ana urges others to find the courage to get out of abusive relationships and embrace any family who is trying to help.
"Leave while you can."
One in three women will experience intimate partner violence at some point in their lives and police respond to a family violence call-out once every 4 minutes.
Dr Jury told Newshub last year over 50,000 women and children were referred to Women’s Refuge.
She says it is vital the school takes it seriously and dealt with promptly in the safest way possible.
"Violence is never ok but it is particularly troubling when the person who may be inflicting violence is in a role that influences our youth."
Information on the school's website confirms the man she says is in a relationship with her mother is a teacher.
The school's principal told Newshub the wellbeing of all of their school community remains the focus of their priorities but was not able to make specific comments on matters relating to an employee’s individual terms of employment.
"Any issues involving our school community are dealt with promptly and properly and in accordance with all Ministry of Education and other legal requirements," he said.
"We will continue to work alongside the Ministry of Education to ensure our school is the happy, safe and positive place that it always has been."
He refused to comment if the man had been stood down or if any investigation was underway.
Newshub attempted to seek comment from the teacher via the school but did not receive a response.
All teachers are expected to uphold the values and criteria as set out in the Code of Professional Responsibility.
A Teaching Council spokesperson told Newshub a mandatory report has not been received regarding the incidents but confirmed the information has been brought to their attention.
"If an employer has reason to believe that a teacher has engaged in serious misconduct the employer must report this to the Teaching Council and our processes would begin from there.
"Also, in cases of alleged criminal behaviour police are the lead agency, however we work closely with them. Where information has come to the Teaching Council through other avenues, it may refer a matter relating to a teacher’s conduct of its own motion."
Ministry of Education spokesperson Katrina Casey told Newshub it was aware that concerns are being raised with the school.
"We are supporting the school with any assistance they may need."
Where to find help and support:
- Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633
- Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)
- Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
- What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)
- Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
- Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email firstname.lastname@example.org or online chat
- Samaritans - 0800 726 666
- Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
- Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
- Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584