"My mum believed me" How Miss World NZ survived abuse

By Ripeka Timutimu

Reigning Miss World New Zealand Jess Tyson says her mother gave her the strength to speak up against her alleged abuser.

“She’s the one that saved me because she stood up and did something about it,” Tyson told Māori Television’s Native Affairs. “I know so many girls who aren’t believed”.

Tyson claims her abuser was known to her family and would creep into her room late at night when she was just seven years old.  

“When it was happening, all I could do was freeze. I just lay there and pretended I was asleep still because I didn’t want to confront the situation.”

She confided in her mother Margaret about the abuse and she acted immediately. Tyson eventually testified in court at 9-years-old against her alleged abuser.

"Some of the things that I would have to explain I didn't know how to describe.  Like saying the words to describe private parts I didn't really use. That wasn't part of my vocabulary," she said.

The three-day trial took a toll on Margaret and her daughter but drew them closer together.  

“I still feel like to this day that I didn’t protect her. It’s really hard,” says Margaret.  “There were signs like she wore clothes like jeans so he couldn’t get them off or touch her.”

The charges against Tyson's alleged abuser were dismissed through lack of evidence. But Tyson says it's important for victims to know they are not alone and have the courage to still speak up.

The 25-year-old has launched her own organisation, BRAVE, to help young victims of abuse.

"Starting BRAVE is going to make a long-lasting impact. Miss World was more than just a crown.  It was about helping others and actually influencing people in the country."

Tyson will travel to China in December to represent New Zealand for the Miss World title.

For more information visit www.bravenz.com or contact Victim Support on 0800 victim – (0800 842 846).