Te Hokai a step on the journey to healing

A Gisborne support service for male survivors of sexual abuse is run by men, for men, with a particular focus on te tane Tairawhiti.

A GISBORNE support service for male survivors of sexual abuse is overseen by Tauawhi Trust, a community partner to Tauawhi Men’s Centre and Presbyterian Support East Coast.

But the service is separate to the well-established Men’s Centre, and trustee/centre co-ordinator Tim Marshall says that is important.

Many of the men we work with at the centre are self-acknowledged as perpetrators of violence or abuse and we wanted that distinction to be clear, he says.

Male survivors of sexual abuse are victims, not perpetrators, and we want to ensure they feel secure in their own space.

Tim believes that, in reality, they will never know how many of the men who have been through Tauawhi’s doors would have been sexually abused.

But we do know the number is high, which is why we saw this as a workable partnership model, even though the services are independent of each other.

Launched in Gisborne at the end of April, Te Hokai: Male Survivors Tairawhiti is linked to the national Male Survivors Aotearoa (MSA) organisation and offers support to male survivors, whether that be help navigating around agencies that could offer assistance, just being there for a chat, or even deeper engagement.

Tim Marshall says the roots of the service go back nearly a decade, when it became clear that many men Tauahwi worked with had been sexually abused, most as children.

But he acknowledges that, for many men, contact with Te Hokai may be just the start of a long journey.

Over the years I have become increasingly aware of the impact physical and sexual abuse has on men’s lives, and on what their version of themselves looks like. If they are treated as though they are not worthy, then they can feel not worthy, and they deserve better than that.

If men are trying to address trauma that has affected them for decades it is not going to be an overnight fix, he says, but taking the first step can be a meaningful start.

Our peer support worker Winton Ropiha is here to support them, and we are here to support him, on a journey that could improve and enrich their lives and the lives of those close to them.

MSA advocate Ken Clearwater says the aim is to create safe spaces where men can open up and talk about trauma without being judged.

That man will start talking and will talk with other men, and this will open up the conversation, he says.

And Te Hokai is unique in that, being set in the bicultural rohe of Turanga, it can offer a te ao Maori view where appropriate.

As both Tauawhi Trust trustee and co-ordinator of the affiliated Men’s Centre, Tim says that for its first two years of operation, Te Hokai will be aiming to achieve two primary goals.

Obviously we want good outcomes for men, many of who would have been carrying stuff for decades and may never have spoken to anybody about it, he says.

But we also want to establish visibility in the community with the aim of reducing the stigma survivors often feel. The more comfortable they are about speaking their truth, the sooner they can start on their journey to healing.

– Contact Te Hokai peer support worker Winton Ropiha by phone 0274-124-495; e-mail info@malesurvivortairawhiti.