Spotlight film encourages victims to disclose sexual abuse in New Zealand

Spotlight, starring Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton, tells the true story of a team of journalists who uncovered ...
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Spotlight, starring Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton, tells the true story of a team of journalists who uncovered clergy child abuse in Boston.

A Hollywood film has prompted new disclosures of historical sexual abuse suffered at the hands of religious officials in New Zealand.

Thirty new clients sought the services and support of the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust following the release of Oscar-winning best picture Spotlight.

The film told the true story of a team of journalists from the Boston Globe, who exposed a cover-up of sexual abuse within the Catholic clergy through their Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation.

Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust manager Ken Clearwater says wherever there are vulnerable people there will be abuse.
DON SCOTT/FAIRFAX NZ

Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust manager Ken Clearwater says wherever there are vulnerable people there will be abuse.

Trust manager and national advocate Ken Clearwater said the male victims of officials from various religions thought nobody would believe them, so they had not disclosed the abuse that happened to them years earlier. 

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"The sad part for me about Spotlight, is that people think 'oh yeah that's in America', but it's exactly the same here in New Zealand. We've got this view that things aren't as bad, but the damage that these priests have done in NZ is just as bad as anywhere else in the world."

The new clients came from across the country and included a former pupil of St Patrick's College in Silverstream, Upper Hutt, where disgraced Catholic priest Alan Woodcock had taught.

"We talk about the Catholic Church because of the way they handled it, but there will not be an institution in this country where children have not been sexually abused.

"Wherever there are vulnerable people there will be abuse."

Research indicated one in six boys suffered sexual abuse before the age of 18, while one in three girls would be sexually assaulted.

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Clearwater said society needed to be aware of the issue and teach children "they are in control of their bodies".

News of serial child sex offender Robert Selwyn Burrett's crimes also triggered victims of other sexual abusers to come forward.

University of Otago Department of Preventive and Social Medicine senior research fellow Dr Shyamala Nada-Raja said a 2000 study of men abused by the clergy identified links between their mental health and past experiences.

She said there needed to be effective strategies, resourcing and support in place to those affected by a "very sad and emotive issue".

START manager Maggy Tai Rakena​ said Spotlight had not been identified as a contributor of new clients to the Christchurch-based sexual violence agency but she knew a lot of people had seen the movie and were affected by it.

"Movies in popular culture assist in helping people disclose abuse and to make it a more open conversation."

Television movie Consent: The Louise Nicholas Story had prompted sexual abuse disclosure, as had anything centred around the Catholic Church and abuse in convents or other institutional settings, Tai Rakena said.

"It would seem to me that in NZ our own state care has got a lof of difficulties to overcome. We probably haven't heard as much about that as maybe is appropriate."

WHERE TO GET HELP

Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust 03 377 6747 or 027 353 3854

START 03 355 4414

Te Puna Oranga 03 381 8472

Lifeline (open 24/7): 0800 543 354

 - Stuff

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