Last week, the Abuse in Care Royal Commission held its 500th private session with a survivor of abuse and/or neglect in the care of the State or a faith-based institution.

Many of those who shared their story chose to write a few words about the experience, some with a handwritten scrawl on a piece of paper, others through poems or mini-essays.

Published in Stuff

Their suffering, and the cathartic effect of being able to unburden themselves of the past, is vividly captured in those accounts.

There are also stories from religious and State schools, and pastoral care, Commission chair Coral Shaw says.

Shaw said it was a privilege to hear from those who choose to come forward to share their often-painful experiences.

The themes that emerge are ones of excruciating pain, confusion, growth, resilience, survival. They are shared anonymously, but carry an intensity burnished from their lifelong pain.

They are shared with permission from the survivors and provided by the inquiry.

A word of warning: the following words could be triggering for some people, caution is urged.

The words of a survivor who shared their story with the Royal Commission.
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The words of a survivor who shared their story with the Royal Commission.

Because:

Do you remember that abused, scared, frightened little boy? No? nor do I

Because I am no longer that abused, scared and frightened little boy. That fear now belongs to those that committed the abuse and to those that scared and frightened that little boy. I am strong now, no longer standing in the shadows. It is you who need to be scared and to be afraid

Scared of the truth of your actions and of your deeds

The scars of my abuse are fading, slowly, but they are fading. I will always carry those scars, they have become my strength, but the fear, it is no longer mine.

My scars are being transformed into strength, hope, love, friendship, life. Because I am now strong, stronger than you will ever realise. Because now I have hope, hope for a better life and a future

Because now I am learning to love again, where there once was only confusion and pain. Because friendship is the beginning to understanding love. Because life is for living in the here and now.

I am no longer bound by the confines of my abuse, and choose to grasp the freedom and move away.

Most importantly, I have time

Time to grow, time to hope, time to love, time to live, time to discover who I am meant to be.

Commission chair Coral Shaw paid tribute to the victims who shared their stories.
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Commission chair Coral Shaw paid tribute to the victims who shared their stories.

From seven to seventy-two

I stood to read my story before the class on the mat

While my new teacher sat beside me at his desk

A man who should have been my guide

But instead put his hands into my pants

And carried out further acts behind the blackboard

He took from me sweet memories of learning and turned them to fear

He embedded in my mind that I would fail at the height of achievement

He embedded in my emotions that I was a victim waiting for abuse

And he stole from me the sense of trust in teachers

So that I did not attempt university until I was 47

The repeated violations did not just take my childhood

They created a battle within my psyche to give myself value

I may be 72 years old but in some ways I’m still 7

But now I have told the Royal Commission all that he did

I have released the loneliness of my internal grief

I discovered years later there had been a trial

Where my teacher was accused of violating several girls in my class

And he had been acquitted by an all-male jury

But he had threatened to kill my mother and me

And left me too frightened to tell

Now I’ve told my story before the Commissioner

Felt some of the life-long burden flow out with my tears

I am no longer hidden inside my trauma

I have taken the first steps towards healing

The mental and emotional pain of sexual abuse

Be proud...
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Be proud…

Message to New Zealand

We believe with all our hearts and minds that systems need to be stripped the way down to nothing, just like a victim has had to do, and then rebuild from scratch.

Just like a victim has to do.

We did not deserve this...
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We did not deserve this…

Me No More

I was playing by the sea shore when a bad man first took me

I was only four

Yeah I was only four and I was me no more

I am Me no More

For my own sake I’m many years late remembering the first night they took away my ability to fight

They drugged me up and then held me down

And they shared me all around

They violated me with violence under a bright light

And as the camera clicked my mind learned a new trick

It left me there in that room and ran down the beach outside

Until I tripped and fell on the rocks in my shell

Now I know there are no rocks on that beach

Other than those beyond reality’s reach

Now I can see me from behind the light

I’m cowering in the corner

I’m on the floor and I am me no more

I am me no more

A boy died inside that night

And I was made

I was made this way

Yeah Lady, I was made this way

And now I know

I know I will forever be me no more

I am me no more

For my own sake I’m many years late remembering the second night they took away my ability to fight

They tied me up and tied me down

And they shared me all around

Then they turned me over and they made sure

They made sure

I was me no more

I am me no more

I’ve spent my life trying to understand who the hell I am

But now there’s only one thing I really understand

There’s only one thing I know for sure

I am me no more

I am me no more

The words convey raw emotions and hopes for the future.
Stuff
The words convey raw emotions and hopes for the future.

Message to New Zealand

Please do not be afraid as help is out there if you just ask for it.

As I feel that if we don’t do anything about what has happened to us then others will get hurt and go through what we went through.

So I’m writing this to let you know you are not alone there is help out there all you have to do is ask for it. As I was scared of asking for help but now I am trying to have a better life.

The life I believe I deserve.

“Do not be afraid,” one survivor writes.
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“Do not be afraid,” one survivor writes.

Message to New Zealand

To all those that have been harmed in care: Stay strong, keep fighting and know that you are worthy of justice. Love yourselves, be proud and walk tall. To all those dedicated to hearing our voices, thank you.

Together we can make a difference.

All the best. I am a survivor.

The hearings continue in Auckland between September 21 and October 6 where survivors seeking redress such as compensation, counselling, an apology for abuse and/or neglect in the care of the State will speak. Witnesses will give evidence about civil claims made against the State, and civil litigation in the courts and before the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

Published in Stuff
13 Sept 2020