WelCom April 2021
Rupi Mapusua and Brigid Sharp
Parishioners at Our Lady of Hope Parish of Tawa and Titahi Bay stood in solidarity at Our Lady of Fatima Church, on Sunday 21 February and St Pius X Church on Saturday 27 February, to publicly acknowledge sexual abuse by clergy.
They stood with other churches that have tied colourful ribbons to their ‘Loud Fences’. Tying ribbons to church fences is a movement that symbolises breaking silence and becoming a voice for those silenced by clergy sexual-abuse trauma.
Using trellises in place of fences at our two churches, over 100 people stood in silence as Fr Rico de La Torre and Fr Marlon Trebelan blessed the ribbons. ‘May their colours and brightness be a sign of new hope for the survivors and our church community’s promise of support,’ they said as they tied ribbons and invited those gathered to do the same.
Two workshops were held prior to the ribbon-tying events.
Christopher Longhurst, leader of a survivors’ network of those abused by priests in New Zealand, spoke about the Loud Fence movement, SNAP and his personal experience of being a survivor of clergy sexual abuse and its impact on his life. He explained how to ‘TALK’ to loved ones about sexual violence when someone discloses it has happened to them: Thank them for telling you; Ask how you can help; Listen without judgement; Keep supporting.
Tofa Fagaloa, Senior Community Engagement Adviser for the Royal Commission of Inquiry into abuse in care, described the difficulty of navigating the topic of sexual abuse in the community because of perceived barriers, including cultural taboos and shame that can be involved in disclosing abuse in Pasifika culture. The question of what is abuse and what isn’t was also discussed.
At the workshop a priest made an apology on behalf of all clergy for the hurt and pain suffered by victims and survivors of sexual abuse in our church community.
The Royal Commission encourages survivors of abuse to come forward.
As the safeguarding team at our parish, we hope to continue to provide opportunities to educate and raise awareness so individuals will have strength, alertness and compassion to act if abuse occurs or when a survivor feels able to disclose.