Sister set to be honoured
Arrowtown stone sculptor Shane Woolridge knows only too well the pain of watching a loved one endure suffering at the hand of a violent, abusive partner. His nightmare began, aged 13, in his hometown in England. His sister, 15, whom he was extremely close to, fell pregnant to a 19-yearold known locally as a violent troublemaker and easily enraged. ‘‘When she married him, we all married him. He threatened all of us. There were regular acts of violence at our house and the only time we got a rest was if he was in prison, where he went twice for 18 months.’’ He recalls standing by helplessly desperate to intervene as a young boy, while his sister, who was being beaten, would give him that reassuring look as if to say ‘‘it’s OK, I can handle this’’. Forty years later as Mr Woolridge recounts the story, the pain is still raw. A successful musician and winner of the first BBC Television Battle of the Bands series, he wrote a song while living in New Zealand in 2004. Vivastar 12 is a tribute to his sister and the abuse she’d endured. He’ll perform it as part of Queenstown’s White Ribbon anti-violence event at Earnslaw Park tomorrow. ‘‘My sister was one of the toughest women I know – a very practical, headstrong lady – but she realised she’d dug this hole and there was no escape. She’d have to leave the country or he’d come after her. ‘‘He was very clever, manipulative and extremely paranoid, prone to extreme bouts of violent rage.’’ She endured the nightmare for 20 years: ‘‘She couldn’t leave the kids or take them with her, so she waited.’’ As soon as her children had left home, Mr Woolridge, by then in his 30s, went back to England and helped his sister escape to the United States, sneaking her belongings, out bit by bit. ‘‘This guy could smell a lie at 100 yards.’’ She stayed with a friend of her friend’s in the United States, where her husband could not track her. The pair married and have been happy and together now for 15 years. Mr Woolridge urges family members witnessing any abuse against women to step in and for women to lean on families and friends for support. ‘‘These women feel trapped, as there are normally children involved. It’s a terrible thing. ‘‘These guys just go on a mission and their whole 100 per cent intention is to hunt these women down,’’ he said. He challenged men inflicting any family violence to ‘‘man up’’ and get help.
What: White Ribbon Ride - Queenstown picnic event and Maori welcome. Bring your lunch, picnic rugs provided. Where: Earnslaw Park When: Thursday, 1pm. Join the ride: Motorcyclists meet at Lake Hayes Pavilion at 12.30pm to join the ride into Queenstown with Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden. Tribute: Arrowtown stone sculptor Shane Woolridge will perform his song dedicated to his sister, a victim of domestic abuse, at tomorrow’s White Ribbon Ride.