Rosie Dawson-Hewes: We are the solution to this horror

By Rosie Dawson-Hewes

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Moko Rangitoheriri suffered terrible abuse at the hands of his caregivers. We as a community need to stand up and take responsibility for these acts taking place in our neighbourhoods.
Moko Rangitoheriri suffered terrible abuse at the hands of his caregivers. We as a community need to stand up and take responsibility for these acts taking place in our neighbourhoods.

Like many who work in media, I'm a bit of a news junkie. I always read it, always watch it. I follow big stories obsessively.

Scott Guy's case was one of those. He was the Feilding farmer, father of two, who was gunned down in his driveway early one morning. The stories that followed as the case unfolded were essential reading for me. It was one of New Zealand's biggest whodunnits in recent history, not to mention the scandal when his brother-in-law, Ewen McDonald, was arrested and charged with his murder (a charge he was later acquitted of).

And while that case still fascinates me to this day, every now and then a story comes along that I just can't follow, at least not in the exacting detail I usually would. The brutal murder of 3-year-old Nia Glassie was one of those. And the deaths of wee Chris and Cru Kahui, too. And now, Moko Rangitoheriri.

On Monday Tania Shailer and David William Haerewa, who pleaded guilty to killing Taupo 3-year-old Moko Sayviah Rangitoheriri, were sentenced to 17 years each at the High Court in Rotorua. They were charged with manslaughter.

The details of Moko's abuse and subsequent death are horrific. There is no other word for it. He was assaulted over a two-month period in Taupo last year after his mother, Nicola Dally-Paki, left him with the couple while she was in Auckland looking after another child in Starship hospital.

I know many of you will already know the details of what happened, but I think it's important that we all read and acknowledge what happened to Moko. Every time I force myself to read how he suffered I struggle, but I am also further compelled to take action.

Shailer and Haerewa, whose role was to care for and nurture the defenceless, innocent Moko, kicked and stomped on him. They slapped him, rubbed faeces in his face. He was eventually beaten to the point where he suffered facial swelling, internal bleeding, septic shock from his leaking bowel and swelling of the brain. Shailer and Haerewa left him suffering these injuries for four days before calling 111. As I said - horrific.

At times during the coverage of their trial I had to stop reading, turn the page, change the channel, tears streaming down my face. The details of Moko's degradation and abuse became too much for me. My heart aches for him and his family. I feel sick to my stomach even now, writing this. But his family can't just turn the page. The awful, premature death of their beloved son and brother is something they are forced to live with for the rest of their days. It's a life sentence no one should have to endure.

New Zealand's domestic violence rates, particularly towards children, are some of the highest in the OECD. We all know this, we've all seen the campaigns to stop domestic violence. And yet, our rates of violence are still painfully high.

On Saturday night, while most people were glued to their tellies watching the All Blacks thrash Wales, I attended the launch of an incredible art book, titled Grim Tales. It's a collaboration between 13 survivors of domestic violence, who told their stories to 13 local authors, who in turn rewrote them into Brothers Grimm-style fairytales, which were illustrated by 13 local artists. It's an incredible collaborative, community project, nearly two years in the making, which aims to raise awareness of domestic violence and much-needed funds for our local Women's Refuge. National survivor advocate Louise Nicholas said at the event it was time to open the curtains on this "crime of silence".

"It must have taken a mountain of courage to open up, about something that women hide away in shame," she said.

We all have a responsibility to change the statistics. Police last year attended about 105,000 domestic violence incidents - that's one every five and a half minutes. They estimate that about 80 per cent of incidents are not reported, meaning about 525,000 incidents likely occurred. In a country of just 4.5 million, that is far too many. Even more frighteningly, police say about 80 per cent of incidents are witnessed by children.

As a community, we all need to take responsibility for these horrific actions. They take place in our cities, our neighbourhoods, our community. We can't turn away anymore. We all need to stand up. Nicholas said on Saturday that we are all leaders.

"There is strength and safety by acting collectively."

The time is now. We cannot stand by and watch our children be scarred by witnessing violence. We cannot turn away while they die.

We all have to do our bit. We all have to speak up and face this problem. Together, we are the solution.

- If you or someone you know are in immediate danger phone police on 111. If children are in immediate danger phone Child, Youth and Family on 0508 326 459.

- To purchase Grim Tales go to http://taurangawomensrefuge.

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