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) - survivor.org.nz 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.