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Abuse inquiry reaches out to survivors

The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry is investigating the historical abuse of children, young people and vulnerable adults in State and faith-based care in Aotearoa New Zealand. They are looking into why people were taken into care, what abuse they suffered, and the effects of the abuse on them and their family.

The Inquiry would like to hear from survivors or witnesses. You may have suffered abuse yourself or witnessed abuse in the care of others. Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and neglect (including spiritual, medical, educational and cultural). You may also have a family member who is no longer alive who experienced abuse in care – you can share their story with the Inquiry also.

The following Q&A prepared by the Commission answers some common questions. More information is available at the Commission’s website, www.abuseincare.org.nz

What does being ‘in care’ mean?

Being ‘in care’ means the State or a faith-based institution had responsibility for your care. This could include being in foster care, care and protection residences, youth justice residences, children’s homes, psychiatric hospitals, health camps, disability institutions, schools and early childhood institutions, and faith-based care, but it is not necessarily limited to these types of care institutions. The focus of the Inquiry on abuse in care means that it is not able to look into abuse that happened in your own family home, unless you were in care at the time. Nor is it looking to aged residential care, unless you were under other State or faith-based care at the time.

What does ‘abuse’ in care mean?

Abuse means when people who lived or were cared for in State or faith-based care have been treated badly and have been hurt. Neglect means when caregivers do not look after a person well and do not give a person all the things they need to feel well looked after. If you are unsure, please contact the Inquiry, who can discuss this further with you.

What will happen to the information I give the Inquiry?

The information that the Inquiry gathers through public hearings, from survivors in private sessions, through written accounts and general submissions and through research will be analysed and used to inform reports to the Governor-General. The Inquiry will also use the information gathered in private sessions to understand themes that may later lead to a public hearing. They may also use the information they gather in private sessions in their reports. They will not use names or other identifying details of survivors.

When will the Inquiry report?

The Inquiry will be writing two reports to the Governor-General. The first is an interim report, which will be done by the end of 2020. That will detail what the Inquiry has found so far. The second, in 2023, will be the final report. That will contain the Inquiry’s findings and recommendations on how Aotearoa New Zealand should care for children, young people and vulnerable adults in the future.

I was abused while in care. Can I tell my story?

Absolutely. The Inquiry wants to hear from as many people as possible who were abused in State or faith-based care. The abuse that survivors suffered can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or neglect. Neglect includes medical, educational, spiritual and cultural.

Abuse and neglect may have occurred in many different care settings, including:

  • In a children’s home.
  • Foster and adoption.
  • In a youth justice placement.
  • In psychiatric care.
  • In any disability care or facility.
  • At a health camp.
  • At any school or special school.
  • At any early childhood centre.
  • In police cells, court cells or police custody.
  • In transport between different care facilities.
  • In a church or with a religious group (can be any religion or faith).

I witnessed abuse in care happening to someone else. Can I tell my story?

Yes, you can.

Can I tell the Inquiry about a family member who was abused in care, but has since passed away?

Yes, you can.

How do I tell the Inquiry what happened to me or what I witnessed?

Survivors and witnesses can share their experience in the way that works for them. This may be in a private session with a commissioner or through writing your story (called a written account), or another way that is more comfortable and works for you. You can also engage with the Inquiry from the comfort and safety of your own home.

To be involved in the Inquiry, you need to first register.

I would like to keep my story private. Is this possible?

Yes. Confidentiality is a high priority for the Inquiry.

What is a written account?

A written account is another way that survivors can share their experience of abuse with the Inquiry. The written account booklet contains a consent process followed by about 10 questions that survivors can choose to answer about their experience of abuse in care. The questions are a guide to help survivors write about their experience.

I may need support to write my story. Can the Inquiry help?

Yes. All survivors and witnesses who register with the Inquiry can access literacy support to help with any communication needs.

Will I need a lawyer to be involved in the Inquiry?

You do not need a lawyer to participate in the Inquiry. You can participate in a private session or write about your experience without a lawyer. It is entirely up to you. Legal assistance is available to people in some specific situations. If you wish to discuss your eligibility for legal assistance, please email legalassistance@abuseincare.org.nz

Can I get support or counselling from the Inquiry?

Yes. You can ask for support at any stage of your engagement with the Inquiry. The Inquiry will provide support before, during and after you engage with them for a short period of time. They will work with you to put together support and/or counselling that meets your needs and values.

Where can I register or find more information about the Inquiry?

Information sourced from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care.

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