Elaine Lees’ memoir Emerging from the Shadows: Transcending Fear to Freedom is unique for several reasons.  Firstly, Lees does not concentrate on domestic violence, yet the abuse she suffered prompted the writing of the book.  Secondly, the opinion of the author’s child is also expressed in her mother’s book.  Lees’ daughter, Kiri, eloquently voices how she felt as a small child subjected to the horror of seeing her mother and brothers flagrantly abused by their mother’s partner.  And lastly, and this for me is the most significant part of the book, Lees sought to emerge from the horror of abuse through reconnecting with her Maori heritage.

The author discloses that had her father not left the family when she was eleven, had she not reacted to this event with rebelliousness, had she listened to her parents that her choice of partner in her teens might not have been the right man for her, she would arguably not have spiraled into the world of abuse.

Her parents had taught her that the woman was the home-maker.  Consequently, keeping a spotless, harmonious home and being a kind and attentive partner was how Lees thought she should handle the abusive situation she found herself in.  In her early adult years, she did not understand that nothing she could say or do would ever appease the abuser or end the abuse.  It was the partner who had the issues, whatever they were, not Lees or her children.

Fortunately for Lees, she had experienced an idyllic early childhood and later, some exceptional vocational accomplishments.  She also recognised the tremendous guilt she experienced for exposing her children to abuse.  Though there were strong perceptions of low self-worth and failure in Lees, there was always a spark of the potential to shine that had always been there.  She identified what she needed to do to transform her life and set about doing it.  Elaine Lees is clearly an incredibly insightful woman because she recognised the lessons that could be learned from the innocent observations of her children, particularly Kiri.  She also acknowledged the loss of the spiritual connection to her parents and the innate wisdom and life experiences of her mother and her mother’s Maori culture.  Lees understood that her Maori heritage offered answers to how to traverse the adversities that occurred in her life.  And so began her journey of self-discovery.

Maori culture is deeply spiritual.  Lees explains that when we connect with that part of us that is  Spiritual, the non-physical part of us that connects to Source (or God or Creator, whichever the individual believes in), when we are fully connected to our Wairua (Spirit) and our Mauri (Life Force) we can stand in the fullness of who we are; we can stand in our own power, fully connected to all that is.  Lees further observes that since we cannot see our Wairua (Spirit), most people lose their connection with it.  The five senses, seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling become the senses people trust and rely on.  We must realign our spiritual self with our physical self in order to begin to flourish.

Women everywhere need to leave, must leave, abusive relationships.  Yet often they do not.  How many have the courage to do so when any self-worth they might have possessed has been beaten out of them?  We now know that the abuse is likely to increase immediately, if or when a woman leaves the abuser.  The abuser perceives his victim is getting away, so his need to ‘get back at her’ quickly and with more intensity increases.  This was graphically illustrated when, after leaving her partner, Rosie Batty’s eleven-year-old son was murdered by his father.  When abused, a woman’s self-identity can be so eroded that many question who they are.  When they have lost sight of who they are, they see no option other than to remain where they are.    If they fight back, they are beaten; if they don’t react to the abuse or if they try to please the abuser to avoid further abuse, they are beaten for their stoicism.

There is abundant wisdom and insight in Lees’ memoir.  It inspires women to acknowledge and embrace their birthright of Mana Wahine, no matter what nationality they are for Mana Wahine is the intrinsic feminine psychic force that is within all women.  Emerging from the Shadows teaches with the overarching theme of learning from the maiden, the mother and the matriarch.  This book should be distributed to every Australasian high school and read by women everywhere.

Thank you Elaine Lees.  You are clearly an amazing woman.

Rhonda Valentine-Dixon
Published Author

This book is an emotional work of art that will touch souls and connect the hearts of so many who shared a common path and survived, wounded but stronger, and eventually wiser.

In the book, Elaine shares her journey with honesty and grace.  Her poetry reveals the emotions which so many women have felt but never shared.  She asks questions that awaken the heart.  A beautiful read.

Angela Bird B.Sc (Psyc), AIMM, MAPS, MAPA(USA), CHyp.
Australian Coaching Industry Research Advisory Board (ACIRAB)

“Emerging from the Shadows is a raw account of an emotional journey to a life free from domestic violence.  Readers will be moved by Elaine’s in-depth account of her passage through violence, taking in to consideration her upbringing and intimate relationships formed along the way; survivors will definitely relate to many themes of this book.”

(NZ Women’s Refuge)

“Emerging from the Shadows – Honouring the Wisdom of the Maiden, the Mother and the Matriarch can only be described, in my view, as an essential guide and handbook for anyone open to walking the path of self-healing – away from fear, towards freedom.  In this powerfully written, heart-centred book, Elaine openly shares the personal trials she and her family endured as a direct result of alcohol, domestic violence and abuse.  From the loss of childhood innocence to the penultimate realising of self-love and forgiveness – one that sparks genuine hope and the promise of freedom and transformation for all women, mothers, children and those who have personally come into contact with the pain and suffering endured by the hands of abuse.

Elaine’s own journey from fear to freedom provides tangible proof of the divine power that exists within the human spirit – to transcend extreme hardship and difficulty, to rise up again as the phoenix from the ashes.

I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of themselves and their power to create positive change in their world and the world around them.”

Matthew Patti,
Visionary Thought Leader 

Elaine I couldn’t put your book down! A beautiful story of courage and hope written straight from your heart and your deep connection with culture. I’m sure your message will resonate with many women sharing a similar journey … you have such a gift for writing so all gratitude goes to you.
Blessings also on the spiritual journey ahead Helen x

(Helen C)

Oh Elaine, I’ve read the first 3 chapters and cried and cried….. it’s so emotional.  I’ve laughed at many moments, what a beautiful early childhood and I’m totally in love with your dad, bless him.

I’m completely glued and can’t put it down, it’s taken me to a reflective place.  It’s fascinating to step sideways and look at the journey ….. I could relate to your mum, as there were similarities in dad’s childhood with your mum.  How incredibly intuitive your mum is, which is ever present in you.

It’s an honour to witness your Phoenix rising, it’s breathtaking and incredibly courageous.

[Your book] will land exactly where it’s meant to … after 3 chapters it has unlocked so many things in me, it’s remarkable.

I was a vibrant angry teenager who was frustrated with a mother who honored everyone but herself.  A kind gentle and willing participant who had a strong backbone when she needed to rise but mostly melted and camouflaged into everyone else’s needs.

She was prey to whoever would give her attention.

I felt so unlikeable because I would often voice my opinion and felt misunderstood, how can you be understood if you can’t even hear who you are?

I was brown skinned and hearted living in a white world dislocated from my source of my father and brothers light through fearful decisions mum made.  Like you I idolised my dad and his vibrant cheekiness resonates through me.

Your book has helped me realise everyone is all so similar, going through an internal tug of war with the decisions we make and the circumstances we manifest.

Your book is mesmerising because it’s taken me on a deep reflective journey, which I pray will allow me to grow.

I hope you realise you are paying it forward for all of us, allowing us to learn about ourselves through you.  When I’m reading … I can’t put it down … when I put it down I can’t pick it up because I’m scared of what I’ll learn next about myself.

I’m so grateful to you, love you.  So much of your sharing encourages and gives me inspiration, I’m overwhelmed at the gift you have given me today.  The book has resonated deeply, words cannot describe my gratitude to you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(Andi G)

Read your book today.  Just finished it now.  Wow.  Very powerful story you tell.  I am filled with admiration for you for having survived and then thrived the way you have.  I have been through my own transformation and a shedding of a past that was not helpful to me and whilst my story was not as challenging as yours I do share some of the experiences you describe.  I would never have guessed that you had struggled as hard when I met you in [place].  Thank you.

(Sid P)

I started reading it off and on at work last night and this morning.  What a fantastic read so far, was specifically interested in your early age childhood as it so much brought back memories of when I was in welfare at one of the homes in Gisborne, then moved to Tikitiki to live with a family on a farm then back to Gissy before finally settling for 7 years in Ruatoria on a huge farm where my uncle managed 2 other farms apart from our own.  So farm life was my life from around where I was 7 to 14 yrs of age.  Like yourself we used to go into Gisborne once a month to fill uncles swap a crates and ge͏t farm supplies from Dalgetys, and Williams and Kettles and yes I remember the spaceman drink clearly hahahaha.. Anyways I’m up to you giving birth to Jean Paul and can’t wait for tonight where I can carry on where I left off in your journey.  Ka kite talk to you soon x

(Ra H)

Your book has taken me on a journey of confronting my demons.  I cried with you and identified with so many of the situations that you faced.  If I wasn’t aware of who you were, I almost thought I was reading of my own past experiences and situation.  I identified with your Mum as I too didn’t tell my children things but so raw and emotional reading your book.  Such a privilege to be privy to such powerful and confrontational issues, and the honesty with both yourself and your girl was both beautiful and confronting.  I applaud you for your candidness.  I know being so open leaves you both vulnerable, but also to be vulnerable it also opens you up to confront those emotions and feelings to heal and journey on in your truth.

Thank so much for sharing your truth and the journey you have started and still take towards self-love and forgiveness.

Sorry but your book has impacted me in ways you will never believe. I cry as I write this to you.  Well I have gone on enough.  Thank you for opening my eyes towards a better way forward and understanding.  Much love and each person u touch (there will be many) will enable you to sow a beautiful truth of healing.  Still haven’t finished as I like to read it so I absorb all of your wisdom.

(Deb P)

Checking my mail box is something I don’t do a lot.  Mail can sit in there for days.  It’s normally when the mail door is bursting open a little that I pull everything out but the other day for some reason I was pulling out of the drive & I asked the kids to check the mail box. There were two parcels, one was from eBay & the other one I wasn’t too sure of.  I was driving so I got [daughter] to open it up.

She pulled the little tab across the packet & I nearly burst into tears.  I didn’t see anything but I felt this warm overwhelming strength of powerful loving energy flow straight through my body & to my heart.  My daughter then pulled out your book & I felt so warm & grateful.  Thank you so much.  Your energy helped me power through the last few days.  It comforted me.  It healed a little.  It caressed a little.  It gave me a huge smile & I even did a funny dance with the kids.

I seen your little message in the book & I think your right I will find something I resonate with so I’m just letting her sit till we’re ready for each other.  Her Mauri is strong, I touch her & I feel pain but I also feel so much recovery & freedom.  Your amazing, your strong & you are such an inspiration.  I’m glad our paths crossed & we got to meet each other.

(Haileigh R)

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