News from SNAP “down-under” in Aotearoa New Zealand

SNAP has been in Aotearoa New Zealand now for the past eight months. Many people in Aotearoa New Zealand still do not know about SNAP here or the service we provide the local communities because we are still new to the Aotearoa victims and survivors scene. But the need for our work here is evident.

Sadly, there are many victims and survivors of faith-based sexual abuse throughout New Zealand.  Our main work here in Aotearoa New Zealand is to provide peer-support for survivors of clerical sexual abuse, especially in the waxing of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse as more victims and survivors find the courage to come forward and tell their stories.

As the Royal Commission digs deeper into the historical abuse that has plagued our nation, safe places are needed for victims and survivors to feel protected, supported and truly heard. SNAP NZ offers one of those places.

Most of our peer-support work has been concentrated around the capital region, Wellington, where peer-support meetings are held fortnightly. This work is expanding to regional centres.

Our other peer support work involves conversations on the SNAP phone line talking with people who call in for support, giving guidance and a listening ear to those who want to tell their stories.

What has been interesting here in Aotearoa New Zealand is the number of parents of victims and survivors who have contacted us. SNAP has some excellent resources for parents and family members of victims and survivors.

Our mission is to support victims and survivors of abuse and our kaupapa is to put victims and survivors first. I try to steer away from an organizational focus, realising that we are one of many good networks sharing the noble mission. Thus our mantra here at SNAP NZ is “Put survivors first.”

One of our highlights over the past eight months was our presence and input at the annual symposium held by  the “Wellington Theological Consortium” last September. The theme was Lament, Listening and Healing In Response to the Sexual Abuse Crisis in Our Church Communities. Professor Chris Marshall, Diana Unwin Chair in Restorative Justice at Victoria University’s School of Government spoke on how to carry out the Circle Process at peer-support meetings. He also gave an excellent introduction to the concept of restorative justice.

Dr Rocío Figueroa Alvea, abuse survivor and Auckland based theologian spoke on “Overcoming Silence – Women’s Voices in the Catholic Abuse Crisis.” Rocio’s work in this field has made her a preeminent voice for women survivors worldwide.  Her testament at the symposium spoke to the power of truth against those who seek to silence women survivors.  

Rob McGregor, peer-support-worker spoke on how “Healing Starts with Listening.” He addressed the importance of allowing victims and survivors to tell their stories in ways that they are properly heard.

Marg Schrader, former sexual abuse counsellor and Presbyterium Moderator spoke on “The Effects of Clerical Sexual Abuse in Naming and Experiencing God.”

I gave a talk on some reactions to Pope Francis’ Vos Estis Lux Mundi.

It was a productive event at which our SNAP base in NZ grew significantly. Many good contacts were made and some new friendships formed as participants shared their stories and learned the skills to give and receive peer-support.

What is unusual about SNAP NZ is that some of our members are relatively young. This is unusual because often times it is not until later in life that victims and survivors of sexual abuse find the courage to take that brave step of telling their story and reaching out to others for support.

But SNAP NZ has some young members. I believe that we are changing the face of survivors by bringing awareness to all people that there is only dignity in being a survivor.

We are also very honoured to have the LBGTI community represented in our network.

I think that it is important for all survivors of sexual abuse to know that they have a most welcomed place in SNAP. At SNAP NZ no individual who needs support in our community is excluded. This is why SNAP is a non-binary network. We welcome people from all backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, religions and philosophical outlooks. Even a seminarian, a cleric and a bishop who have survived sexual violence have reached out to SNAP NZ for support. They do so as survivors. SNAP is an equalitarian non-binary support network for victims and survivors of sexual abuse in all faith-based situations.

Some of our members know that faith-based abuse is not only clerical sexual abuse. Survivors can also suffer at the hands of religious brothers, nuns or even lay employees. In addition, abuse in faith-based situations can also involve mental and emotional abuse, and physical violence as well. For example, to tell a transgender or gay person that they “have to change themselves in order to be saved from the hellfire” is a form of religious and faith-based abuse.

At SNAP NZ no one is excluded. All are welcome. There is no difference among survivors from SNAP’s viewpoint.

SNAP NZ is a grassroots peer-support network of survivors, by survivors, for survivors and their whanau.

 

SNAP Aotearoa is grateful to its supporters.

A special thanks to the counsellors who send their clients to us for peer-support. To heal victims and survivors is to heal society.

A special thanks to the other survivor groups which pick-up the survivors who contact us when we cannot always provide the hands-on support needed because our own limited resources are stretched.

A special thanks to Toi Pōneke Arts Centre and to the Wellington Philosophy School for hosting our peer support meetings in the capital.

A special thanks to the Archbishop of Wellington, John Cardinal Dew, for his numerous acts of support.

A special thanks to Tui Motu for advertising for us.

A special thanks to WelCom for advertising for us.

A special thanks to the organizers of the Mission Expo 2020 for giving SNAP booths at both the Porirua and Nelson events this month. We are looking forward to spreading our kaupapa and vision for a healed and safer society.

 

If you or your family and loved ones are hurting and want some support or information, contact SNAP NZ today.

National Webpage: http://www.snapnetwork.org/aotearoa_new_zealand

Email: aotearoa-newzealand@snapnetwork.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SNAPNetwork/

Thanks for your attention.

Christopher Longhurst

National leader of SNAP Aotearoa New Zealand

Wellington

12 March 2020

 

 


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