Safe space for abuse vic­tims to speak out


Ma¯ori lead­ers are dis­cussing ways to shed light on abuse within wha¯nau, as an­other runanga mem­ber awaits sen­tenc­ing for his­toric sex abuse.

For­mer Nga¯i Tahu leader Ta¯ Mark Solomon said vic­tims of abuse needed to feel safe enough to come for­ward, at a hui on pre­vent­ing fam­ily vi­o­lence on Wed­nes­day evening.

The Tu¯ Pono hui se­ries reached Omaka Marae, in Blen­heim, six weeks af­ter an­other of Solomon’s cousins was found guilty of sex­u­ally abus­ing mi­nors in Kaiko¯ura in the 1980s and 1990s.

At the 15th hui of its kind in the South Is­land, Solomon said his own ex­pe­ri­ences of abuse within his wider wha¯nau had in­flu­enced his de­ci­sion to launch the se­ries.

Mar­cus Shane Solomon, son of Whale Watch founder and Taka­hanga Marae up­oko (leader) Bill Solomon, was the sec­ond mem­ber of the Kaiko¯ura runanga to be con­victed of his­toric sex abuse in the past three years. He would be sen­tenced on May 1.

Kaiko¯ura kau­matua Tai Stir­ling was sen­tenced to home de­ten­tion and com­mu­nity work in Blen­heim in March 2016, for abus­ing two mi­nors in the 1970s and 1980s.

‘‘It does have a bear­ing ... It’s not nice. And it’s not in your face, that’s the thing. You find com­mu­ni­ties clamp down and they don’t talk about it, and vic­tims don’t speak out,’’ Solomon said.

‘‘So the hui is about us as a com­mu­nity hav­ing a dis­cus­sion about what we’re go­ing to do. We have to con­front it. I want my daugh­ters and sons and grand­chil­dren to grow up safe and if you keep turn­ing your backs on this, they’re never go­ing to be safe.’’

Solomon re­ferred to sta­tis­tics he was shown by po­lice in 2015.

‘‘One fig­ure that re­ally stands out is that Ma¯ori women make up 7 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion but they make up 50 per cent of all vic­tims (of do­mes­tic abuse),’’ Solomon said.

‘‘One in six men in this coun­try have been sex­u­ally abused ... It’s one of the na­tion’s great­est se­crets, be­cause no-one will talk about it. All I want is for us to be able to talk about it.’’

Solomon was joined at the hui by for­mer Ma¯ori Party co-leader Dame Tar­i­ana Turia, and Te Pu¯tahi­tanga o Te Wai­pounamu chief ex­ec­u­tive He­len Leahy, who spoke about Pu­nanga Hau­maru, or cre­at­ing safe spa­ces in the home, marae and com­mu­nity.

A re­gional team, Te Tau Ihu, would head the project in Marl­bor­ough, in­clud­ing Te Hauora O Nga¯ti Ra¯rua gen­eral man­ager Amaroa Luke, and Marl­bor­ough Chil­dren’s Team di­rec­tor Dr Lor­raine Eade.

The team also in­cluded rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Blen­heim po­lice, Te Puni Ko¯kiri, and Nga¯ti Ra¯rua runanga.

Project lead and Ran­gita¯ne runanga mem­ber Richard Bradley said any­one con­victed of any type of vi­o­lence would no longer be al­lowed to hold a po­si­tion of author­ity at a marae.

‘‘Vi­o­lence and abuse are not ac­cept­able, nor are they nor­mal ... and we need to cham­pion that, start­ing on our marae, mak­ing it vi­o­lence and abuse-free. So iwi lead­ers with a his­tory of vi­o­lence or abuse can­not rep­re­sent our peo­ple.’’

Bradley said he was al­ways in awe of the po­tency of the Smoke­free cam­paign, and hoped to spark a sim­i­lar cul­ture change with do­mes­tic abuse.

‘‘Thirty years ago I would turn up at your par­ents’ place and have a meal and then ask for an ash­tray. You wouldn’t do that any­more. Even if I was still smok­ing, I wouldn’t even ask. We don’t al­low it on the marae. So that’s the chal­lenge, isn’t it? That change in cul­ture.

‘‘You can’t be in­volved in the (smok­ing ces­sa­tion) pro­gramme if you’re pop­ping out­side all the time to have a smoke. At Women’s Refuge, you can’t be a coun­sel­lor for a cer­tain num­ber of years if you’re a vic­tim, be­cause you have to work through your own stuff be­fore you try to help peo­ple with their stuff. So if our speak­ers are our rep­re­sen­ta­tives, they should be squeaky clean. They should rep­re­sent our as­pi­ra­tions, and our moral stan­dards.’’

The project name Tu¯ Pono meant stand­ing up for your be­liefs, Bradley said.

‘‘We need to ac­cept what we’re do­ing is not work­ing.’’

Leahy said re­search showed cul­tural mis­un­der­stand­ings, sys­temic bias, and lack of knowl­edge about wha¯nau dy­nam­ics and val­ues pre­vented some Ma¯ori, in­clud­ing those in se­ri­ous need, from en­gag­ing with agen­cies.

‘‘Tu¯ Pono seeks to ad­dress gaps within the cur­rent sys­tem for ad­dress­ing fam­ily vi­o­lence by work­ing to en­able a stronger wha¯nau re­sponse,’’ Leahy said.

‘‘The best so­lu­tions tend to be those that are lo­cally-owned and driven.’’ Rape Cri­sis - 0800 88 33 00 (24hr ser­vice), click link for in­for­ma­tion on lo­cal helplines. Vic­tim Sup­port - 0800 842 846 (24hr ser­vice) The Har­bour, on­line sup­port and in­for­ma­tion for peo­ple af­fected by sex­ual abuse. Women’s Refuge (fe­males only) - cri­sis line avail­able on 0800 733 843. Male Sur­vivors of Sex­ual Abuse Trust (males only) - sur­ If you are in dan­ger, or are be­ing sub­jected to sex­ual vi­o­lence, call 111.

Solomon said he hoped the project would help vic­tims of abuse come for­ward.

‘‘We all know it’s hap­pen­ing in our fam­i­lies. This is the data, so what are we do­ing about it? The only ones that can stop this is us. Ev­ery­one else is the am­bu­lance at the bot­tom of the cliff.’’


Dame Tar­i­ana Turia, cen­tre, is wel­comed onto Omaka Marae, in Blen­heim, for the Tu¯ Pono hui on Wed­nes­day.

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