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A safe space

Place for men to open up and talk about sexual trauma

A SPACE for male survivors of sexual violence has opened up in the heart of Tairawhiti.

The official launch of Te Hokai Male Survivors Tairawhiti was held at 73 Peel Street where Tauawhi Men’s Centre co-ordinator Tim Marshall, former Male Survivors Aotearoa (MSA) national advocate Ken Clearwater, MSA chairperson Phil Chapman, Green MP and former undersecretary for family and sexual violence Jan Logie spoke about setting up spaces like this.

“It has been a long journey to get to this point,” Mr Marshall said.

“Seeds for this kaupapa (mission) were planted well before today’s event and we have Ken Clearwater to thank for that — sharing his own survivor story and creating a safe space for others.”

Tauawhi Trust is the fundholder of the kaupapa. The trust was set up a few years back as a community partner to Tauawhi Men’s Centre and Presbyterian Support East Coast.

Winton Ropiha, a former counsellor at Tauawhi Men’s Centre, will be the peer worker for Te Hokai.

“I’m very fortunate to have whanau in this space with me — knowing what this kaupapa is like as a male survivor myself,” he said.

“The peer support kaupapa will allow myself to create a connection with whanau and hapu. I hope that since this is here and now, whanau who need us will come here.”

Mr Ropiha reminisced about Tangi Hepi, Tauawhi’s first men’s counsellor.

“He saw something in me and I’m very lucky to start this journey,” he said.

Mr Marshall said having Te Hokai as a stand-alone identity, rather than being “just another service of a bigger organisation”, was “a better fit” for the male survivors kaupapa.

Ken Clearwater acknowledged the work of people like Mr Marshall.

“We want to allow safe spaces where a man can open up and talk about trauma without being judged.” Mr Clearwater said.

“That man will start talking and will talk with other men. This will open up the conversation.

“This will be the first kaupapa Maori service for male survivors of sexual trauma so it is an honour and privilege to be here today. I am looking forward to the journey ahead.

“To Winton, don’t carry this on your own. You need to have support around you and I am only a phone call away.”

Mr Clearwater spoke about working with male survivors around New Zealand, including in prisons.

“Over the last few years I’ve been thinking about how can we get more Maori men to work with Maori men. It has been difficult and a real battle. It’s something no one wants to deal with or work through.

“When I first spoke with Winton in 2017 and he said he wanted to do this work, I told him you cannot do it all on your own. I see support in Tauawhi and I think this is a great place to start this mahi (work).”

MSA chairperson Phil Chapman said work in this area nationally only started because of Mr Clearwater.

“We are aware of the pain and suffering these men have gone through for the last 50 years or whatever,” Mr Chapman said.

“It is a huge toll on these survivors. It’s about survivors — that’s what we are here for. We were once never at the table sharing our vision for a national body but we are finally there and have a voice.

“We all play a small part in this and today is just the start.”

Green MP Jan Logie said: “We all know sexual violence is endemic in our country. We all know somebody who knows someone who has been affected by it.

“We spend much of our lives believing that’s not true and that silence around this violence is part of what causes trauma.

“In that silence we create self-blame and stories about ourselves of what was done.

“Ten years ago, as a new MP, I was trying to get funding for sexual violence services, I came from a female viewpoint.

“I didn’t know how prevalent this is for males — how many of our boys were affected by sexual violence,” Ms Logie said.

“I want to acknowledge this as the first kaupapa Maori male survivors service. It’s 2021. How has it taken this long?”

• Winton Ropiha is at training for the next week but can be contacted by cellphone on 027 412 5495 and also through the website www.malesurvivortairawhiti.nz

Te Hokai: At the launch of Te Hokai Male Survivors Tairawhiti are, standing (from left): Tauawhi Men’s Centre co-ordinator Tim Marshall, Tairawhiti artist Nick Tupara, Green MP Jan Logie, former MSA national advocate Ken Clearwater and Green MP Elizabeth Kerekere. Sitting are Te Hokai peer worker Winton Ropiha and Male Survivors Aotearoa chairperson Phil Chapman. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell