13 Jun 2019

Cook Islands sexual abuse of young males double NZ's

10:16 am on 13 June 2019

Young males in the Cook Islands are twice as likely to be sexually abused as those in New Zealand.

Child abuse

Photo: 123RF

That's according to a study conducted by the campus director at the University of the South Pacific in the Cook Islands.

The recently published results from 2017 follow on from other youth behavioural studies in the past 12 years which previously indicated high rates of sexual abuse.

More specific information was needed said Debi Futter Puati so she tailored questions to glean answers from over 20 percent of the country's aronga mapu, or young people, who participated in her study.

It showed 24 percent of them had experienced sexual abuse, but the rates for males came as a shock.

Only nine percent of males in New Zealand experienced forced sex. Now that's half of the young male population in New Zealand that are being abused compared to the 18 percent of young males in the Cooks.

Which Dr Futter Puati described as "frightening".

The data for female young people was comparable between the two countries with 24 percent of them reporting sexual violation or similar in the Cook Islands, Dr Futter Puati said.

"When you look at the 2012 youth study that was done in New Zealand, there again were 20 percent of females who participated in that study that said they had experienced forced sex at some stage," she said.

Figures from the study show the perpetrators were almost always known to the young person and in a place where that person should have been safe.

"Sixty percent of perpetrators were known to the young people who had been abused so that dispels that myth about stranger-danger that still hangs about, even though it's been well busted over the years," said Dr Futter Puati.

Only 20 percent of the perpetrators in the study were identified as strangers.

Debi Futter Puati said finding a way forward to tackle the issue and educate children and parents was particularly difficult when "the people you know, and love might just be the people that hurt you".