Warning: This story discusses issues related to rape and sexual violence.
A member of a survivors’ group advising the Government’s abuse in care inquiry has skipped its latest meeting after revelations her partner is a convicted paedophile.
The Royal Commission of Inquiry into state of faith-based care appointed 18 people, themselves victims of abuse, to a survivors’ advisory group early this year.
Published in Stuff
Ahead of the group’s fourth meeting in Christchurch on Tuesday, members said they were sickened to discover the man had been allowed to accompany another member when she attended three previous meetings.
Court documents show the man pleaded guilty in 2000 to the sexual abuse against a child in his care, who was aged between seven and eight and a half at the time.
Group member Tyrone Marks said he wanted the member and her partner banned from the group. The woman did not turn up to the Christchurch meeting.
Her membership was now a “safety issue and a conflict of interest”, she said.
A spokeswoman for the commission said police checks were not completed for group members or their partners prior to their appointment, as they were not employees. Formal screening is now under way.
Members learned a second scheduled day of meetings on Wednesday had been cancelled by the commission, but were not told why.
Marks said he learned about the man and his convictions about eight days ago from someone working for the commission.
Group member Kath Coster said she was told about the man’s presence at the meetings on September 15 and shared her own story of being molested as a child with the commissioner the following day.
At a previous meeting in Wellington on August 12 Coster had to pacify the man when he became aggressive towards another person and was asked to leave the meeting.
“I went and spoke to him and explained to him he wasn’t on the panel and therefore he shouldn’t be at our meetings. We didn’t mean to offend him … remember at this stage I didn’t realise he was a paedophile. He wasn’t happy about it but he settled down and left that situation.”
Learning the man she had interacted with at the previous meeting was a paedophile made her feel sick to the stomach, Coster said.
“To think there’s an advisory panel … that has been selected to put them in a situation where they can be re-traumatised what does that say for the general public if you’re going to be dealing with them.”
Coster said sharing her story was traumatic and put her in a vulnerable position. Realising she had been with a paedophile caused further trauma.
She and Marks said they would be asking for an explanation at the meeting.
“I’m a survivor of state care that was molested by paedophiles and … I don’t put myself in that situation and I sure as hell don’t expect other people to put me in that situation either.”
A commission spokeswoman said the member’s partner did not attend any of the survivors advisory group meetings.
“The person was in the same location as the meetings because he was supporting his partner, a member of the group.”
The man’s convictions were disclosed on August 22 and the commission took immediate action, she said.
Group members were not told because the commissioner planned to tell them in person at the Tuesday meeting.
Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin said she was “horrified” but was powerless to act.
“Survivors were very clear – they wanted an independent Royal Commission of Inquiry. That means I have very little powers.”
By Cate Broughton
Published in Stuff
24 September 2019