Abuse victims plead for support

05:13, Apr 16 2014

Two sexual abuse victims have given passionate speeches in front of a select committee, imploring the Government to properly fund support services.

One is well known to most New Zealanders. Louise Nicholas became a household name in 2004 after her allegations of rape at the hands of several police officers were published by The Dominion Post.

The other, Upper Hutt resident Ann-Marie Shelley, lacks the public profile of Nicholas but her story is no less horrific.

She was the victim of multiple cases of abuse during her life, starting at the hands of a Catholic priest when she was seven.

After counselling Shelley eventually gained the courage to make a complaint to the Catholic Church, who apologised and provided financial compensation.

But the priest, who acknowledged the offending, was never charged by police because of the restrictions of the Crimes Act.

Shelley and Nicholas appeared today before the select committee inquiry into the funding of specialist sexual violence social services, which received more than 1000 submissions.

She recommended to the committee that more funding be made available to agencies who care for children subjected to sexual violence and education programmes in schools be improved.

Speaking before the hearing, Shelley said she was sharing her story in public for all the voiceless victims who were unable to do the same.

"I'm not just doing it for me, I'm doing it because I can.

"I'm doing it because there are so many victims that actually have no voice whatsoever...if I have the ability to do this I want to be doing this."

Having spent her life struggling with abuse and the difficulties of getting help to deal with the trauma, it was hugely important the Government provided adequate funding to the organisations that provided assistance.

It had been fantastic to meet Nicholas, who she described as a "hero" and someone who had given her the strength to speak about her own situation.

Nicholas, who became an advocate for sexual violence survivors after the publicity, told the committee that a taskforce for action on sexual violence that reported back in 2009 had been ignored.

It contained a blueprint for how to tackle the lack of proper support for victims, a problem that had hardly improved since when she was raped.

"That was 30 years ago, what has changed? Nothing. It took a reporter to bring my story out in the open and even then I wasn't offered the proper support.

"Services can't continue to run on the smell of an oily rag, they can't continue to run on the pockets of money that are thrown at them just to shut them up."


The Dominion Post