Manage episode 362051628 series 3381430
Te Tai Tokerau boxer Mea Motu is on top of the world after claiming the IBO super bantamweight world title last week, but she knows what it’s like to be at rock bottom.
In a new interview, the 33-year-old told Real Life with John Cowan there was a time she wanted to “give up on life” when she was homeless, on the run from her abusive husband, and relying on relatives to look after her kids.
Raised in Pukepoto, Motu loved the lifestyle of the rural Northland town – riding horses, milking cows, running in mud barefoot.
But after a move to Auckland, things started to go downhill. She met her first love at 17, while she was still at Auckland Grammar School, but the relationship soon became abusive.
Motu fell pregnant, and under pressure from her mother, she married him. But over time, his “dark side” began to reveal itself.
“Slowly he started to come out with his little cracks, and it started to show. I thought ‘OK, I’ve married this man and I’ve made a commitment’. In my faith, being brought up in it so strong, you’ve got to stay with your husband and it’s up to you to save him.”
Initially, it was Motu’s mental health that suffered – but then the abuse became physical as well.
“[He was] chipping at me, controlling me, telling me what I need to be doing, how I need to be, how I present myself. Even telling me ‘I’m the male, I’m your husband, this is what you’re allowed to do’. I started to believe that, thinking it was normal.
“So first he broke my mental health, then I lost my self-esteem. As soon as I lost that, then he started hurting me, hitting me, bashing me, destroying everything I have.”
At the time, no one was willing to help Motu. Even when she moved to Australia to escape, he followed her there and continued his abuse, so she returned to Aotearoa. It was at this point that she became homeless, sleeping in cars and relying on relatives to look after her kids.
“I constantly fought for my life every year. I tried to run away from this man, and he wouldn’t allow me. I tried to go to other towns and he still found me.
“The only way I could escape was I just kept doing it for myself and kept pushing, because I looked at my three children and thought ‘I can’t have this for my kids’.”
The abuse only slowed four years ago, and stopped only when she joined Peach Boxing, the team that trained her into a world champion.
“I didn’t feel so weak. They gave me a different power, they made me realise I deserve better than this.”
Motu says she tries to empower wahine in similar relationships to recognise the abuse and learn to do something for themselves.
“We forget who we are, we live under their fear. The only way we let go is living us and speaking. We hide under their rock by not speaking, and the quieter we leave it, the worse they get.”
Motu credits her strong Christian faith with keeping her going through the tough times, and helping her enjoy life.
She hopes her story can inspire others not to give up in the midst of difficult moments.
“Keep going – even if you fall off, it’s about how you get back up.”
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