Warning: this article discusses sexual violence
A Māori elder is running workshops using traditional taonga pūoro to heal survivors of sexual assault as an initiative of the New Zealand’s Rape Awareness Week. The program aims to help victims come forward, as NZ police are have recently reported shocking numbers of rapes and sex crimes in the country.
Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan is a poet, artist, activist and survivor of sexual assault. She has been working with victims of sexual abuse in the Māori community for 20 years, and even works with perpetrators themselves.
Kohu-Morgan has used sound and traditional instruments as therapy to regain strength from, and push through, her own trauma. She told Māori Television’s Native Affairs News her work is based around teaching others to learn to hear that voice in the puku, be aware that it is part of the inner pain and finally, allow it to rise and release out of the body.
With women comprising of an overwhelming 77.9 per cent of sexual assault victims in NZ, Kohu-Morgan’s provides therapy to female victims in a weeklong workshop. However, she is also working with male sexual assault offenders in Waikeria Prison.
“My work and my passion in the state of my forgiveness has come to that place where I need to help these men re-direct their lives and become who they were born to be,” Kohu-Morgan told Native Affairs News.
Earlier this week, the New Zealand police released a campaign aiming to educate and reduce the stigma around rape and sexual assault. In NZ, 5,865 people were the victims of sexual assault between January 2016 - January 2017 and only an estimated 9 per cent of cases are reported. Women made up the large majority of victim cases and Māori people made up 21.2 per cent of the statistic. In the past three years, there have been over 1,400 reported sexual abuse cases between family members on NZ.
“That doesn't surprise me,” Kohu-Morgan says, “because when you look at the act of colonisation on our people and they are imploding - not exploding, but imploding – and punishing ourselves. So it's about coming to a space and I’m always happy to awhi that process because it's really hard to find someone who has worked through and in a state of forgiveness.”
Kohu-Morgan says she will continue her healing practices and running workshops to help treat victims of sexual assault beyond Rape Awareness Week.
Information on NZ Rape Awareness Week can be found here
People who are experiencing sexual or physical violence are encouraged to ring 1800-RESPECT, a national telephone support line.