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We had stranger danger but he wasn’t a stranger – Ken

“I was born and bred in Christchurch. When I was twelve I was groomed and assaulted by a hospital orderly. Back in those days we had stranger danger but he wasn’t a stranger, he was nothing to the picture we were brought up as kids – a man in an overcoat and brown paper bag. I got sucked in. He assaulted me over a period of time and I turned from a happy go lucky cheeky little kid into a nasty, violent boy. I ended up in gangs, alcohol , drugs. About ‘91, when I threatened to kill a man, I realised I needed help and went to the mental health system and got turned away. It was then I realised there was nothing for men. In ‘95 I found an ad for a male survival group and went along and realized that was a place where I needed to be, that’s where my healing really started.

So I’ve set up services for male victims of sexual trauma with a peer support model. Specialists and therapists are great but I feel the peer support model works, male survivors supporting males. Men are predominantly seen as perpetrators in a patriarchal system so speaking out as victims has been difficult. It has been seen as a weakness. I think our vulnerability is our strength. For us it is about the power of your vulnerability, if you are able to talk about that it will give you the strength to go forward.

My work is not about empire building, it’s about building people. It’s about sitting with men who have experienced violence and find a way through. They’ve got to find who they are inside. When that trauma has happened to you as a child you don’t know who you are so you put a brick wall around you. But as you grow up you are capable of lashing out doing huge damage. So it’s about sitting with the men and talking about the little boy who has got them to where they are now and looking at where they want to go.”

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