The inclusion of religious institutions into a state abuse inquiry has been welcomed by those who work with male survivors of sexual abuse.

A Royal Commission into the historical abuse of children in state care, from 1950-1999, has been in a preliminary process since February. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Children’s Minister Tracey Martin announced on Monday that Cabinet had agreed to expand the commission’s remit to investigate abuse in church institutions after months of resistance.

Male Survivors Aotearoa chairman Phillip Chapman was one of those who made an submission that the inquiry be widened to include other organisations like churches, schools and sports clubs. While it could have gone further, he said the inclusion of churches and faith-based organisations was “good news”.

But he did hold concerns about how the inquiry would be managed, as there were few support services for male survivors.

Published in Stuff

“We’ve got no funding, nobody in the sexual violence sector knows what happens come June next year, there is nothing in place for any funding at the moment so we are all just hanging on.”

The inquiry has a budget of $78.85 million over four years, which includes more than $15m to help participants by providing counselling and related support which Chapman said was a good thing for the men who had been abused.

“I just hope survivors are looked after.”

He thought there was more awareness that men were victims of sexual abuse, but recent cases​ where an Auckland rugby coach was found guilty of 95 sex charges against 17 boys and a Kaitaia hostel owner drugged and assaulted male guests showed it was still a problem.

“It hasn’t gone away,” Chapman said. “We need to fix the damage of the past and do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

When people were encouraged to come forward and share their stories, Chapman said they needed to be handled with care.

In September, a group of male survivors of sexual abuse in Nelson released a collection of personal stories in the book When Bad Things Happen to Good Boys.

At the book launch at Whakatu Marae, Chapman said a 74-year-old abuse survivor cried as he spoke of his experience more than 60 years earlier, which showed how long-lasting the damage could be.

He said men who had been abused often thought they were the only ones it had happened to.

“There is no profile of it and there are no services that are really geared up to working with men, there is very little training in the area.

“We need a basic awareness campaign so men know they are not alone.”

The inquiry will hear evidence from January next year.

The first interim report, focusing on children in state care, will be delivered in 2020. The second report, focused on faith-based institutions, will be released in 2023.

By Samantha Gee
Published in Stuff
13 November 2018