Auckland domestic abuse victim speaks out about quest for justice and story of survival

Warning: This story discusses domestic violence and contains details that may disturb some people.

Auckland woman Monique Nelson says she owes landmark laws for enabling her to convict her former partner. 

In 2018, New Zealand passed legislation granting 10 days of paid leave for survivors of domestic violence. Nelson says she is grateful for the ground-breaking measures that made it possible for her to leave an abusive relationship and take her case through the criminal justice system.

"If I didn't have it, I probably wouldn't have survived. I was able to be financially in a better position to be able to get my life back together," she says.

New Zealand is only the second country in the world to introduce such laws, which help alleviate the financial burden for those trapped in an abusive or violent relationship.

"We all know that our ability to pay our rent and put food on the table actually needs certainty of income and abusive partners know that as well," says Green MP Jan Logie, who campaigned for seven years for the law change.

"That's a dynamic in a relationship where an abusive partner will try and get their partner to leave their job or make it impossible for them to stay, so they'll be more dependent on them, and make it harder for them to leave."

Nelson, 47, met her abuser Anthony Jerry on Tinder in March 2019. Within months of meeting, Jerry had completely taken over Nelson's life, gaslighting her throughout their nine-month relationship.

"He would say things like, 'I'll see you hanging from a tree from the end of this relationship', 'You're sad, depressed, fat, ugly', 'No one's going to want you and why would they', 'Look at you, you're pathetic'," Nelson explains.

Jerry's verbal threats were backed up with savage beatings. The majority of assaults took place in the Auckland apartment they shared for five months, what Nelson describes as her "own, private torture chamber".

In April, Nelson's powerful testimony helped a jury find Jerry guilty of 21 charges of violence against her.

"He has no remorse. If he did, he would've plead guilty and taken responsibility for the things that he had done," Nelson says.

Monique Nelson.
Monique Nelson. Photo credit: The Hui

Among the raft of charges against Jerry were six for strangulation, an offence introduced in 2018 to provide greater protection for victims of family violence. 

"Strangulation or attempted suffocation is a very clear message from an abusive partner that they have the power to kill and there's a seven-fold likelihood that they will kill," Logie says. 

"After introducing that charge for strangulation, police were investigating five cases a day of strangulation or suffocation which really points to the importance of that law change."

Last month, Jerry was sentenced to five years and four months for his offending against Nelson.

In her summing up of the case, Judge Mary-Beth Sharp described Jerry as a dangerous man who she doubts can be rehabilitated.

"Had you been able to continue to carry on as you did towards Ms Nelson in this relationship, there was every chance that you might not stop yourself and that she might have died at your hands," Judge Sharp said.

The case hasn't only meant justice for Nelson but for the other wāhine who never had their day in court - because Nelson wasn't Jerry's first victim.

"He's destroyed a lot of women on the way to getting to me. He's broken their spirits and really affected them. They're all trying to heal," she says.

Reconnecting with her whanau and friends has been a great source of strength for Nelson as she pieces her life back together.

"It's hard, but the rewards that you get, you get your life back, you get your freedom and that feeling of freedom is amazing," she says.

Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and NZ On Air.

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Auckland domestic abuse victim speaks out about quest for justice and story of survival