2 Dec 2020

Pasifika survivor still waits for an apology from the Catholic church

8:31 am on 2 December 2020

A Pasifika survivor is calling for the victims in New Zealand's Pacific community who have been abused in care to seek the Royal Commission of Inquiry for guidance and support.

Moeapulu Frances and Timo Tagaloa

Moeapulu Frances and Timo Tagaloa Photo: RNZ Pacific / Sela Jane Hopgood

Moeapulu Frances Tagaloa, aged 52, spoke at the faith-based redress hearing this week in Auckland about the sexual and emotional abuse she experienced in the Catholic church in the 1970s.

"I'm so thankful that I've had the opportunity as a survivor to share my story and to let the commission know about the abuse and pain that I suffered," she said.

"There are so many survivors that have passed away and haven't had this opportunity. Some have taken their lives, and some haven't been able to come forward yet and so when I was talking at the hearing I felt like I was representing survivors as well as my family."

Moeapulu stated at the hearing her recommendations for the Catholic church to consider when confronting abuse.

"I think when a priest or clergyman are found to be sexually abusing and that complaint is upheld at the Catholic church, that person should be dismissed," she shared.

"In New Zealand, we have not heard of any Marist brother that has been dismissed, even when the complaints have been upheld by the church and the police have been involved."

Moeapulu said there needed to be a duty to report incidents.

"If the church finds out about these abusive cases, just like in schools and non-for-profit organisations, they should apologise.

"I am still waiting for an apology from the Catholic church and to acknowledge their wrongdoings."

Moeapulu first started processing what happened to her as a child at the age of 17.

She has since approached the National Office for Professional Standards, (NOPS), which is where bishops and congregational leaders oversee the response to complaints of abuse.

Moeapulu also contacted Marist Brothers and the Bishop of Auckland, Patrick Dunn.

Bishop goes to Mass in the church

Photo: 123RF

"It's not right for the survivor to go back to the actual institution where the abuse happened; in my case the Marist Brothers, to seek to have things put right," Moeapulu explained.

"The Catholic church aren't equipped, nor do they understand the difficulty and the trauma that survivors have gone through and dealing with them was re-traumatising.

"This is why having an independent body take on victims' cases is important, whether it be a commission or tribunal. They can investigate, take on reports, interact with the police and hold any institutions to account where there's been sexual abuse."

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in Care is investigating the abuse and neglect that happened to children, young people and vulnerable adults in care from 1950 and 1999.

Commissioner Ali'imumua Sandra Alofivae said Pacific people were one of three, (alongside Māori and people with disabilities), who were over-represented in the care system.

"Pacific peoples' struggles feature quite significantly in our care system and it's about trying to address what actually happened, why it was allowed to happen and what is it that really needs to change practically and operationally, so that we can avoid that type of harm that was caused previously in the past," Alofivae said.

Pacific people who have suffered abuse in care and share their stories to the Royal Commission of Inquiry will have their voices added alongside other narratives from other survivors' stories, Alofivae said.

Royal Commission Abuse in Care inquiry.

Photo: RNZ / Patrice Allen

"We are looking for patterns and themes. We're looking to see what actually happened to understand the broader picture, so in order to be able to put forward some meaningful and practical recommendations to the government about what it is that needs to change, we need to have a really good understanding of what the landscape was, what the barriers were and then going forward, how do we not repeat the patterns.

"We have a very specific Pacific investigation team and a Pacific engagement team, so Pacific people can ask to speak to someone in these teams and be guided through our contact centre."

Moeapulu Frances Tagaloa urged Pacific people to come forward and share their stories to help future generations.

"We honestly don't have enough Pasifika people sharing their stories to the Royal Commission, yet it has been told that our people were in care during that period.

"If we don't bring our stories to the light, we won't be able to move forward, we won't have effective solutions to help other survivors. I want to encourage our Pacific community to support the survivors that open up and tell their stories because it's not an easy task to do."

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