The former wife of Northland farmer Allan Titford has paid tribute to Women's Refuge, saying that was where she finally went after he tried to make her get into a cattle pen with an angry bull.
Sue Cochrane also paid tribute to police and her daughter for helping her escape from more than 20 years of abuse.
Titford, a prominent farmer and anti-Treaty activist, was sentenced in the Whangarei District Court on Wednesday to 24 years in prison for 39 offences including rape, repeated assaults on his wife and children, fraud and arson.
Ms Cochrane said Titford had always been brutal towards her and their children, and threatened to kill her parents if she ever sought help, leaving her powerless and afraid.
She said she contacted Women's Refuge and, after the bull incident, was ready to go.
"I saw those ads on TV 'Are you OK'. I got onto the website and had a look at that and then started emailing the Kaitaia Women's Refuge. They kept asking me for my name and they'd come and get me, but when I said the time's right.
"So that day I just walked into their office and they knew it was me, and they said, 'Are you ready?' and I said yes."
Ms Cochrane said she documented the abuse from her diaries and was virtually crying every day in the end.
She said Women's Refuge took her and her daughter to a safe house, and police collected her son from his father.
In sentencing Titford, Judge Duncan Harvey said the 53-year-old had subjected his wife and family to violent abuse in a "reign of terror" that dated back to 1989. Titford's lawyer John Moroney said on Wednesday that his client still denies the charges.
The officer in charge of the case, Detective Eddie Evans, said took courage for Sue Cochrane to come forward after years of abuse and also to waive her right to name suppression so Titford could be identified.