Earlier this month some incredibly brave New Zealanders did what so many of us never do: they told the world they had been raped, sexually abused and violated.
One knew her abuser, another was attacked in a taxi by a stranger, another’s abuser was her own partner. For thousands of women their stories were eerily familiar, because so many of us have also survived sexual violence yet many never talk about it or disclosure comes many years later.
New Zealand women were the first in the world to vote in a general election and a few weeks ago New Zealand women MPs became the first in the world to stand together and speak out about surviving sexual violence.
Their courage to share some of the darkest moments of their lives meant that for the thousands of women who quietly watched One Network News or Te Kaea, who listened silently to Radio NZ or Radio Live and who are now thinking about coming forward.
When a Member of Parliament can face our hardened media and talk about being raped: she gives rape victims empathy, understanding and most of all, power and courage.
Out of 100 sexual assaults, 10 are reported and only 1 is successfully prosecuted. That means a staggering 99% of offenders get away with it, such as was the case with the high profile Roast-busters case.
Advocates for a long time have been concerned that the current system has been failing sexual abuse victims but there are encouraging signs that will change.
Justice Minister Amy Adams has instructed the Law Commission to find ways to improve the court experience of victims and examine alternative pre-trial and trial processes.
ACC's new and ground breaking model of handling sexual assault claims, the promise of a national roll out of healthy relationship training for secondary colleges students and the recent announcement of Dr Kim McGregor as our Chief Victims Advisor have all been welcomed by the sector.
It cannot have been easy for those MPs to go public but if one woman now has the courage to do something about the abuse she’s experienced then it’s been worth it. Sexual violence is a shocking Kiwi tradition that we need to eliminate and we start by talking about it.