I began combat sports when I was 19. That's six years of being punched, kicked, choked and thrown around like a ragdoll. My goal was to become skilled enough to one day be able to protect myself and a girlfriend, should I ever find myself in a situation that warranted self-defense.
From 9 to 5 I'm a white-shirt-wearing young professional with a company car. But outside of work, Muay Thai and Brazilian Jujitsu are my sports. They have taken me from an attention-seeking teen with little self-worth, to a considered and quietly confident woman. Fighting isn't for everyone and I refuse to preach, but for me it provides solace. I feel the most myself in a ring or on a mat.
Bruises around my neck, knuckles marks on my cheeks and dents across my thighs have become so commonplace that my body doesn't seem like mine without marks. Over the summer when the stockings come off and sleeves get shorter these marks are on show, and people do stare. Thanks to the good work of domestic violence campaigns most people know violence against women is wrong – and not just that – violence anywhere other than a ring is unacceptable.
But as a country we need to take the next step empower our citizens. Despite the looks and raised eyebrows I've received in petrol station queues or at the beach, not once in six years have I ever been asked where my bruises came from, or if I was okay. Every person who stared at my black eye but didn't ask could have been passing a woman who desperately needed an opportunity to talk.
Violence perpetrated against a partner is no different to an assault outside a bar on Courtenay Place at 3am on Saturday when everyone clambers to intervene. Domestic violence is worse because the relationship meant to represent the deepest of love is responsible for utter misery.
There seems to be a sense of fear around asking and intruding or annoying someone. But what's scarier than being wrong is being right. What happens if she says "yes"? Yes I'm being hit, or burnt with cigarettes, or cut off from my family. If you’re unsure of how to help, Women's Refuge is an amazing group – all anyone needs to be able to do at the least is pass on their number (it’s 0800 733 843) and they can take it from there.
Every time we interact with members of our community we need to be thinking about the kind of New Zealand we want. We are all out of excuses. Violence is violence, abuse is abuse. If you see it happening, if you have even the smallest suspicion, just ask.