Twenty-year fight for justice for male survivors of sexual abuse continues

Male anti-violence advocate Ken Clearwater works alongside Louise Nicholas to help end sexual violence.
WARWICK SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

Male anti-violence advocate Ken Clearwater works alongside Louise Nicholas to help end sexual violence.

An advocate working with male survivors of sexual abuse is still pleading with the Government for a formal inquiry into the abuse of children in state care – 20 years after the campaign was launched.

Over the last two decades, Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust (MSSAT) manager Ken Clearwater has supported over 1000 men who have been sexually abused.

The trust's Christchurch branch has seen 30 new clients this year alone.

Ken Clearwater is the manager of the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust, which is marking its 20th anniversary on March 24.
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Ken Clearwater is the manager of the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust, which is marking its 20th anniversary on March 24.

For 20 years, Clearwater has also been lobbying the Government to launch a formal inquiry into the abuse of children while under state care.

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"It's just frustrating . . . it's ignorant and the Government just aren't getting the message or they're too frightened of the message," he said.

"If we have a look at the seriousness of the abuse of children in institutions and especially Maori, they would realise they have a lot to answer for."

Clearwater said one in four males were sexually abused before the age of 16.

"We're going to have to have [an inquiry] eventually."

The MSSAT was marking its 20th anniversary this week – a feat Clearwater never expected.

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"People just were not interested . . . in listening to the fact there were male victims of sexual violence. It was a huge battle."

It was exhausting work, especially during the difficult early days.

"At times I broke down and burnt out and wanted to just lock myself away . . . I was fortunate that my youngest daughter was here. Otherwise it would have driven me over the edge."

In 1998, the MSSAT helped secure ACC-funded counselling for men who needed support for abuse perpetrated by a female.

"That was huge for us," Clearwater said.

But it was in 2002, when the first male survivor of St John of God clergy abuse went public, that the trust was thrown into the limelight.

"From then we just got phone calls from all over the world from men who had been in Catholic orphanages or schools."

Clearwater said getting enough funding had been a constant battle, but the Government was finally recognising the importance of the trust's work.

They were working closely to ensure support services continued for male survivors of sexual violence, he said.

The MSSAT will celebrate its 20th Anniversary at the Bridge Club in Nova Place Christchurch from 5pm on March 24.

 - Stuff

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