They are big tough bikers, but Kristin Dunne-Powell knows she has nothing to fear from the new men in her life. The bikers, who are former military servicemen, belong to the Patriots motorcycle club – and they’re taking a stand against domestic violence with the help of Kristin (38).
The Patriots will be riding the length of New Zealand on their motorbikes for the White Ribbon campaign led by men who condemn violence – and this year Kristin will be coming along for the ride as a supporter. She’s been working with men’s and women’s groups to do what she can to prevent any woman from being abused by a partner.
In 2006 Kristin was seriously injured by her partner at the time, sports presenter Tony Veitch. He resigned from his radio and TV positions and in April 2009 was convicted of recklessly injuring his former partner. In the past six years, Kristin’s life has turned around. She’s happily married, living in Tauranga and owns her own marketing company, Gro.
She says that volunteering in the anti-domestic violence field has helped with her own healing. It has meant coming face to face with some men who have abused women in the past – but they have now taken the White Ribbon pledge not to commit, condone or remain silent about violence towards women.
“These men are my heroes because they stand up against violence, and they’re the heroes of women like me who have been abused. “The most amazing thing is meeting former perpetrators. They’ve got heartbreaking stories but they really own what they’ve done. They’ve taken total responsibility for their actions. There’s no blame or excuses,” says Kristin.
She’s also been working with young women as part of the Sophie Elliott Foundation to highlight warning signs of an abusive relationship. Kristin says women must tread carefully when exiting abusive relationships. Emily Longley, Sophie Elliott and Helen Meads were all murdered when they attempted to break up with a controlling partner.
Women who feel that they have become trapped in an abusive relationship need to confide in someone who they trust, contact a professional organisation, or ask their general practitioner for help, says Kristin. “Some women don’t know who to turn to, and they feel when they do tell someone they will be judged.
“It’s important not to push them. A lot of people want to leap straight into solution mode but it’s a long process to get free of the abuser's spiderweb,” explains Kristin, who points out that it’s not uncommon for a woman to return to an abusive situation.
“Some women will go back seven to 10 times, which is the same as for giving up smoking. It’s a process, and it has to be a process that you support all the way through.”
Kristin has taken comfort from knowing that she’s been able to help others make a positive change in their lives. “In terms of my healing, it is taking a negative thing and turning it into a positive experience. Part of my moving on is accepting that we are all here on a journey and this has been a part of mine – and my journey continues.”
White Ribbon Ride from November 17 to 25 will visit 80 towns in New Zealand, picking up support riders along the way. For more information visit whiteribbon.org.nz