The Blame Must Stop - A Victim’s Voice
I am a victim of my father’s hand. My father was brought up on the Pahiatua Marae. His mother was young; she became a victim of a kaumatua’s violence. He was conceived by violence, a tamaiti (child) of rape. The rapist was a family member. My father was taken from his mother, away from his whānau, his iwi and his marae after his father was incarcerated. He went on to live in state care until a foster family was found. My father was taught violence by the people who were supposed to protect and nurture him. Anger followed him, the violence forever ingrained in his heart. He knew right from wrong, he had a choice. He did not stop the cycle of abuse, and he punished me for the actions of his past.
I was a child when it started, an adult when it stopped. Like his father, he was incarcerated for crimes of child abuse, violence and rape. I did not choose to be a victim, but I chose not to harm others. I broke the ongoing cycle of generational abuse. The cycle of abuse that was carried through three generations of Māori stopped with me.
“Take care of our children. Take care of what they hear; take care of what they feel. For how the children grow, so will be the shape of Aotearoa.” Dame Whina Cooper.
Mohio ana ahau ko wai ahau, e mohio ana ahau ki te wahi e tu ana ahau. Me puta te huringa – I know who I am, I know where I stand. Change must happen.
At the recent Justice Summit in Wellington, cabinet minister Kelvin Davis shared these words: “As Māori we need to take care of our own, rather than closing our doors. We need to face up to and free ourselves from the violence that many of our people, our whānau, struggle with.” If we want to see fewer Māori in prison, our whānau broken apart because dad is in prison and mum is now in rangi (heaven), we must free ourselves and our whānau from the increasing level of domestic violence and abuse in our homes. The drugs must stop the high level of drinking and violence among our own must be gone.
How many of our fathers are incarcerated, because their fathers taught them the only way to deal with anger was violence, to punch their way through a situation. How many of our whānau have lost a mother, a child, a brother from our people’s own hand.
The blame needs to stop. It is not the police, the system, the state, the Government, the justice system or even the Pākehā who made a man beat his wife to death, to rape an innocent stranger, to murder their own child or to sexually abuse a daughter or son.
No, it was a choice, a choice made by a perpetrator. Māori make up 51 per cent of the male prison population, and 60 per cent of the female muster.
No child asks to be harmed, nor to watch their dads beating their mums. If we were all true to our Māori traditions, our tikanga respecting the mothers of our children, our whānau, our honour, keeping our whānau safe would be paramount. Māori need to take an honest inward look at their own ongoing behaviours first. Our children need to have the chance to grow up safe, educated and free from violence. Davis went on to say: “We need to do something together to create a different future for Māori and for their whānau.”
This cycle needs to stop. The men, the fathers, the grandfathers, the elders in prison who have abused their own need to stand up, take ownership and responsibility and say “Enough”. No more blaming everybody and everything for the crimes offenders have chosen to commit. Prison is a punishment for those who have committed crimes; prison is not based on the colour of your skin. If you are sent to prison it is because you committed a crime, a choice made only by you.
To see a future with fewer Māori men and Māori women in prison will take more than talks and hui. It starts with Māori, rethinking and reteaching the respect, the whakaute, to our children and to one another. It will be a hard, long road but one that will benefit ourfuture generations, to help our tamariki grow not as offenders, but strong, happy iwi that will have a positive influence on future generations to come.
Hapaitia tea ra tika pumua ai te rangatiratanga mo nga uri whakatipu – Foster the pathway of knowledge and strength, independence and growth for future generations.
I was recently asked a question about my past that triggered a response I believe relevant to share. A private glimpse into who I chose to become or more importantly who I chose NOT to become. In life we all have choices. We are all taught right from wrong, we all have that gut feeling, that little inner voice and more importantly personal responsibility and accountability.
There has been an incredible amount of public conversations and media reporting around Offenders once being Victim’s themselves. I know first-hand what it means to be a victim and the impact it has had on all areas of my life. Please understand this-just because I was once a victim; this does not give me the right, or the excuse to harm another. I have read many reports on how Offenders are having their prison sentences drastically reduced because of ‘past wrongs’. I have read how Offenders have used their ‘past sufferings’ to blame others for the crimes they have committed. I am sorry but reading this makes me sick to the core, the ‘blame game’ is not acceptable, nor a valid excuse in my view.
My personal story is one of childhood sexual abuse, physical and sexual violence that involved torture for all the world to see. The sexual crimes committed against me as a child and young adult lasted 19 years. The emotional abuse and control for 28 years.
The child and teenage images still present within the ‘Child Pornography World’ as I write this now.
I knew pain from a very young age, I did not understand why the pain was focused on my private parts. I did not understand why I was the only one in my family that had a secret, but I understood if I shared this secret my mother and my sister would be killed. I did not understand why my mother would send me away or why my Grandparents wanted me to live with them, but I understood how free I felt when my Grandparents took care of me. I did not understand why I was locked in a cage if I screamed, but I understood it was best not to scream. I did not understand why I was never allowed to cry, but I understood what the punishment would be if I did. I never understood why I was not allowed to play at a friend’s house, but I knew how cold an unfired bullet felt pressed against my face. I never understood how anyone could hurt an animal, but I understood why an animal shook with fear.
Throughout my childhood one question always overtook any others-a question that still clearly rules my mind-why would any human being want to make another person suffer in the way that I did? Why would anyone ever chose to hurt an innocent child, an innocent victim? The way I did? The pain I suffered, the abuse I experienced was at times overwhelming, but I knew I would NEVER inflict this pain upon anyone.
I chose to survive, I chose to fight against every moment that was stolen from me. I have worked my whole life to recover from my past, at times I still fight. Like all victims, I have my moment’s. I use these moments as a reminder that I did survive. Yes, I am a victim of my past but like all victims that have survived I have chosen not to harm or hurt another. An Offender has a choice. An Offender, just like any other human being, any other member of Society has something called ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘person accountability’.
So please the next time you read or hear the words ‘an offender was once a victim’ take a moment to remember all the victims who chose not to offend, who chose not to repeat the cycle of violence and/or abuse they once suffered. Please take a moment to remember those victims who no longer live to tell their stories; whose families must continue their lives without them. Try and tell the parents or the family of a child who was murdered, raped or sexually abused their offender did not have a choice. That the offender’s violence resulted from the ‘wrong doings’ of their past. An offender does NOT have the right to play the blame game. The blame stops with the Offender!!
Written anonymously for the Victims protection – please contact our National Victims Advisor email@example.com for further information.