On average, 14 women are killed by their partners or ex partners in New Zealand each year
Over 3,500 convictions are recorded against men each year for assaults on women
Only 20% of abuse cases are reported
So men have roles to play and this kaupapa of violence against women is urgent, and must be addressed.
Tātau ma, I would not be true to the White Ribbon kaupapa, if I did not talk about the elephant in the park here. I refer to sexual abuse, sexual violence.
Last year I publicly opposed a visit from convicted rapist and US boxer Mike Tyson. I knew about his speaking tours in the US and I didn’t want him telling our tamariki that the way to deal with serious crimes of sexual violence was by blaming the victim. I didn’t want him telling them sexist jokes that were disrespectful to women.
Guys like Mike Tyson are the opposite of what our Māori and Pasifika kids need. Just because a guy’s famous does not make him a role model. Too many of our kids already think if someone’s famous they’re role models.
Our kids deserve better than this. Our kids deserve the best.
Our Māori and Pasifika kids need role models from our own communities, and there are plenty of them.
Role models who treat their wives, daughters, partners and each other with respect, with mana.
Role models who demonstrate that healthy relationships are based on mana, dignity and love.
Who are the first role models for our kids? We are – their parents and grandparents. Let’s talk to them about how to treat our kōtiro, our wāhine. Don’t wait for tomorrow – do it today.
Sexual violence doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor.
Pakeha or Māori. Pasifika or Chinese.
Sexual violence thrives when we don’t challenge it.
Sexual violence grows when we treat it casually.
Sexual violence becomes part of our culture when we pass these attitudes on to our kids and mokopuna.
The cost of sexual violence on society, on iwi Māori, on our families and children is immeasurable.
Sure we can try to put it into dollar terms. I’d hazard a guess that the fiscal cost of sexual violence is in itself immeasurable.
But the true cost of sexual violence is about its ability to reach across generations, spreading its poison and embedding it in whanau.
If we do nothing, we condemn our mokopuna to lives where they are preyed on by sexual, violent predators.
This isn’t just a life sentence – this is a forever sentence.
I’ve been wearing the White Ribbon for years as a symbol of non-violence.
Because it’s the fundamental right of our tamariki, our wāhine: the right of every New Zealander to grow up in homes and communities that are free from sexual and violent predators, and any form of violence.
Every child, every teenager, every adult has the right to a life free from violence.
A life free from sexual violence is a basic human right: it is not a luxury.
Listen to any of our mōteatea, waiata tawhito, haka: it is clear that sexual violence is not part of our culture or our heritage.
What I have been talking about has not been easy for you all to listen to. But there is absolutely no doubt that too many men hold too many sexist assumptions about women – like if women dress to appear attractive, then they are inviting sexual attentions; If a man feels sexually aroused he is justified in forcing himself on any woman; that women should expect men to be sexually aroused by them when they engage in social dialogue; that if men make sexual advances on women they are acting OK and natural; but if a woman makes sexual advances on a man, then she is a slut; if a woman gets drunk then she is a slut.
Recent korero on talkback questioning a young woman victim about whether she was drunk, about what clothes she was wearing – they reflect this attitude. It is unacceptable.
Also, a senior defence lawyer in Wellington recently suggested that a woman alleging rape could have kept her legs together. That’s why many women say nothing, rather than face the ordeal, and potential sleazy insults of a rape trial.
So I have raised these issues of sexual abuse to highlight one of the worst expressions of violence against girls and women to illustrate the enormity of the issue. 15,000 people lodge ACC claims every year for sexual abuse – and that is not ok.
That’s why this kaupapa is important for our whanau. Men have a critical role in ensuring that we turn these attitudes around, and that we change the future for our mokopuna. We must address violence, and it can start with each of us teaching our tamariki and peers about respect for all people, tāne and wāhine. That is why I stand here today wearing this white ribbon. That is why we have come together. That is the message that we must take forward.
Hon Pita Sharples