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Laughing Samoan confesses to his secret past as a wife-beater

 SUPPLIED  Wendt and Ete now live happily together in Wellington after a violent start to their marriage. [courtesy photo]
To the public, Eteuati Ete was a charming comic, as one half of the Laughing Samoans. But at home, he was a wife-beater, he confesses to JARED NICOLL.

Two decades ago, Eteuati Ete punched his wife Mele Wendt so hard while she was driving that she ended up with a black eye.

"There was a violent side to Ete," Wendt says. "But to the rest of the world he was this charming, effervescent person."

Ete, now 55, rose to fame as half of the comedy duo the Laughing Samoans. But he now admits he struggled to manage his controlling personality, and the anger that came with it.

The couple had not been married long when Wendt – former executive director of Fulbright New Zealand – was driving them through the Wellington suburb of Newtown as they argued about their three young children, and Ete lashed out.

"I had to go to hospital to check there were no broken bones in my face. I had a black eye. Swelling. He said he wouldn't do this again, but then there was another one.

"The first time I got whacked badly across the face was by him when I was about 25. I was just totally shocked.

"I wasn't going to be a battered wife. I was absolutely prepared to walk away."

But for the past 10 years, they have been back living together happily – and want others to see that changing a violent situation is hard, but possible.

Now a grandfather, Ete says facing up to himself has been "the scariest thing to do".


Read more at Stuff NZ

Wendt and Ete will be speaking at an anti-domestic violence event in the Cook Islands Community Centre at the Cannons Creek Shopping Mall, in Warspite Ave, Porirua, on November 23. Entry is restricted to those aged 18 and over.