I have read many of the stories here and it flattens me. I am so sad that so many other people in NZ have experienced rape, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment.
I remember an idiot recently telling me in a conversation that he did not know any women who had been raped or sexually abused, so it surely couldn’t be common. Idiot. We don’t tell others! We don’t tell people in our lives who are just “mates”! Even if you ask us, we will not tell you.
I want to add my story to the weight of others here. As if I can too add my part to help break this cycle. To make the idiots out there realize this is serious, it hurts us, and it happens all too often.
I was taken to live at Centrepoint Community when I was just turned 13. I was a small, skinny and underdeveloped little girl. A child. I looked like a child.
At Centrepoint there was only one shower cubicle which was private and we were told off for using it. The showers we had to use were open and grown men would come specifically to stare at our developing bodies when we showered. We teenagers would get up very early to shower, and hope we were left alone. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not.
We were told that to be sexually active was a good thing, it was good for us, and it was very clear that if we were sexually active we would be included in the community and given approval.
I was a child, just turned 13, from a small NZ town from a sheltered and somewhat safe childhood. I was moved away from my friends, school, everything I had known, and had to try to fit in as best as I could in my new community.
My mother took me there because she thought it would be good for her, she could get counseling for herself. My family had heard rumors about sex with children there and urged her not to take me and my younger sister there. This was not what she wanted, so she ignored them.
A 27 year old man first had sex with me. When my mother found out shortly afterwards she asked me if he had used a condom. She was most concerned with a teenage pregnancy, because I guess then she would have had to seek an abortion for her daughter outside of the community and uncomfortable questions would have been asked. So she put me on the pill. When I look at 13 year old girls now, and my son who is almost 13, I realize how young and naive and vulnerable they are. It blows my mind that she knew what was happening to me, and SHE PUT ME ON THE PILL!
To this day I feel more anger towards my mother for not looking after me. She should have been my protector, she was the only parent in my life. But she was more concerned with what she wanted. To this day she still minimizes it, says she doesn’t know it was wrong or bad for me for adult men to be having sex with me at the age of 13.
To the men of that community I feel only some disgust. I understand they are simply horrible human beings. They’re not worth my energy to hate so I don’t.
At the very least it was statutory rape, and I was well groomed for it. But it didn’t look like “rape rape”. Forever and still now I struggle to call it rape, and if I do I then don’t feel I can share any details because then people would say “oh, but that’s not REALLY rape”. Was it?
I do know that it affected me badly. I saw my worth as being sexually available, that was the only thing I was there for.
Eventually we moved out and my mother moved in with my stepfather. Because he knew I had been “sexually active” at Centrepoint he thought I would be sexually available to him. To both me and my sister he would come into the bathroom when we were showering. The shower curtain never quite covered the full length and side of the bathtub, there was always a bit at the side or the end open. He would make sure he looked. He watched us shower. It felt super creepy.
One day we had been at a relatives and stayed the night. I don’t know where my little sister was, she was not with us. Me, my mother and stepfather slept in the same bed. There must have not been other beds. My mother slept in the middle.
In the morning my mother got up to make a cup of tea. I was awake, but sleepy. I was wearing pajamas. My stepfather took this opportunity to cop a feel. His hand kept reaching for my breasts, and down to my crotch. Repeatedly I pushed his hand away. I was partly frozen. I was very frightened. After a few minutes of weakly pushing him away I got up and went to find my mother. I immediately told her what he had done, touching me where he shouldn’t touch me. She went ballistic – at him.
She took us for a counseling session, because for her counseling cures everything. She took us for ONE counseling session at …. and this is the kicker…. Centrepoint.
And that was it. It was never mentioned again.
I had to grow up in that house, my body developed and I went through delicate teenage years, living in a house alongside a man I knew wanted to have sex with me and who looked at me as a sexual opportunity.
There is more to my story. More that is common to other girls I learned who were at Centrepoint as teenagers. But I will not and cannot share it with you even anonymously. People in my life will know who I am by reading this much, and the rest I do want to keep private.
Suffice to say that was not the end of sexual abuse to me. When I was 21 an incident happened to me and two other girls which was so traumatic and confusing. I was in a state of shock and suspended animation, PTSD they call it, for six months. During the incident we couldn’t get away because we were on a boat, far from shore. I still do not know the correct label to put on what happened (sexual harassment? rape? gang rape?) but I do know it had a devastating effect on me. I was suicidal.
More than 20 years have passed since then. 20 years. I should be over all this, right? I did have some counseling from the wonderful Help Foundation which helped me recover from PTSD and saved my life. But some effects still remain.
Sexual abuse has effected my sexuality in a deep way which is extremely difficult to recover from. I must fight against dark thoughts, I am alternately disgusted by scenes of rape and aroused. (although when I read survivors accounts the only feeling is deep sadness). I struggle to be sexually healthy, sex is difficult for me, orgasm is achieved only with intense concentration trying to ward off nasty images. Sometimes I can do it, often not.
I enquired a few years ago of a counsellor specialized in the area I need, working with survivors of sexual abuse to heal their sexuality. There is one in Auckland and I had a number, but it is probably too old and out of date now. I am too scared to try to fix myself, what if I can’t? What then?
The things that happened to me were not typical looking rape. Apart from the incident when I was 21 there was no violence, just grooming of a child. But the effects penetrate into my life 30 years after it all began.
I am heartened by this discussion. This is the first time I have seen the words “rape culture” in mainstream media. This is the first time I have seen conversation about rape and sexual abuse not dominated by discussion about what the victims did wrong.
If we keep focussing on what people do wrong to get raped we will keep removing focus from where it belongs, on preventing men from raping. If we keep talking about what people do wrong to get raped we will keep alive an environment where women and transgender people will blame themselves for their own rapes and will not report it.
We need to examine what it is in NZ that allows so many men (and yes, I say men, because all the people who sexually abused me were men) to sexually abuse and rape others. We need to examine the sense of entitlement we give to NZ men, and we need to support and respect our women and transgender people as human beings equally deserving of respect.
We need a conversation about consent and what it looks like. Consent is not the absence of no. Silence, too drunk to talk, these are not consent.
Consent requires the active and freely given “yes” of all people; women, transgender and men, in any sexual activity, every time and throughout the entire activity.
We need desperately to stop telling our young girls they are responsible if someone hurts them by raping them, that they need to curtail their freedom to dress and move about in public lest they be raped. It is completely inappropriate for half of the population (male) to use the threat of rape to constrain the other half (female and transgender). And we need desperately to stop seeing transgender people as “other” and somehow less than everyone else. They too must be allowed to be who they are without fear.
I want to live without fear. I want to live with a healthy sexuality. This is a human right goddammit!
When I was abused at 13 I did not wear revealing clothing, I was not drunk. I was a child.