SO many men say that in carrying their trauma, they feel absolutely alone, so they need to be in a space where they feel change is possible,”Tim Marshall, trustee of the Tauawhi Trust that oversees Tairawhiti’s Te Hokai support service for male survivors of sexual abuse.
Launched in April, 2021, Te Hokai offers support from navigating around agencies that could offer assistance, to just being there for a chat, or even deeper engagement.
Once they have made the decision to disclose many men just want to offload, to lighten the burden of stuff they may have been carrying for decades, stuff they may never have shared with anyone.says Tim
So that can be all they want or need. Or Te Hokai can be a starting point as a space for them to share and unpack their trauma.
While it is there to support men, the service is in turn supported by the national Male Survivors Aotearoa organisation, with which the Gisborne team has regular meetings to learn from their experiences and challenges.
And the challenges are many.
Tim recalls the story of one man who had carried his secret for 40 years, and who was supported into accessing counselling through the Accident Compensation Corporation’s sensitive claims pathway.
He had tried to talk about the abuse when it happened but says his family shut him down, so he’d carried it for all those years.Tim says
For him, not having whanau support only added to the stigma so he needed a space where he could be open and vulnerable, and to get the support he needed.
In fact, the reduction of stigma is one of Te Hokai’s core aims, with a view to reducing barriers to men who could benefit from support.
Too many men who have suffered abuse have never felt safe to share their experience. The more comfortable they are about speaking their truth, the sooner they can start on their journey to healing.
That was the case with another survivor, who believed being abused as a child had set him on a pathway to gang life, and to prison.
He said he had never spoken about it until he heard other men disclose their own experiences and it was his belief that, through sharing his trauma, he was able to get back some of his mana.Tim says
Our hope is that other men can gain similar benefits from the support offered at Te Hokai. That they can go through their own journeys and come to places where they can be the men they want to be.
If men do decide to share their stories, Te Hokai has strong policies around confidentiality and privacy.says Tim
Even in a group environment, because participants are in the same boat they respect the space, and they respect each other and what they share.