Stories of child abuse, incestuous rape and sexual assault were littered through a powerful four-hour presentation at the Convention Centre on Monday.
Ken Clearwater and Louise Nicholas, both rape survivors, shared their trauma with a large crowd at the event hosted by Manline.
Clearwater, an ex-champion boxer, divulged he was raped at the age of 12 by a hospital orderly. A couple of years later he was sexually abused by a friend's aunt.
"She asked me to do things I couldn't comprehend ... she was laughing because I couldn't get an erection. I was shitting myself so of course I couldn't but, she was telling me I wasn't a real man."
He went on to a life of violence to prove otherwise. He was expelled at 14 from school after beating up a prefect and teacher and then in 1981, he assaulted a police officer.
"I left him lying on the floor of the pub ... I thought he was dead. I didn't care - I just thought of him as a piece of shit. I had no human connection to him."
He went on to assault a foreman at his meatworks job and also got into an altercation over a game of pool.
"After that I went back to my table and started to shake. Something weird was happening ... I went home and crawled into the foetal position and cried. I contemplate suicide in the morning but there was knock on my door and it was my two girls needing to get ready for school."
This was when he decided to seek help and, after three psychiatrists turned him down, he went to Psych Emergency.
"I sat down and told my story of how Alan sexually violated me over a period of time. I still don't sleep for fear Alan will knock on my door ... he told me if I ever told anyone he'd kill me."
Clearwater now manages the Male Survivors Sexual Abuse Trust founded by Iain Bennett, a man sexually abused as a child by his uncle. The trust works with a variety of survivors, many of who have been offended against by a female.
"People don't want to accept females are sex offenders too."
Clearwater spoke of institutional abuse prevalent in New Zealand's state care and its ongoing effects. Many male victims turned to a life of violence, and he cited killers William Bell and Antonie Dixon as examples.
He also spoke of an experience during a Bluelight camp where a 14-year-old Maori boy asked him, "Ken, um do you think this stuff that goes on in our heads where we think that we're mentally unstable, we don't know how to deal with it ... do you think that's got to do with when we get raped as children?" This was the first opportunity this teen had, like so many others, to open up to another male and not be dismissed. The trust ran a peer support group which he believed had been the most powerful healing tool but, it had been difficult sourcing resources tailored to male survivors.
Clearwater has travelled the world to gain the appropriate knowledge, including working with children in Cambodia and Uganda.
"Each one of these young men had been raped by soldiers ... one boy was raped then forced to rape his mother and sister in front of his entire village, then taken to be a boy soldier. He had to carry what happened to him and what he'd done."
He said awareness around complex post traumatic stress disorder and the damage done to institutionalised boys was almost non-existent.
"This is the stuff we are facing still today which really has to change. As a victim of this kind of stuff, your humanity goes away because you have to block the trauma ... it's the same thing for boys here in New Zealand who were in the care of the state."
Nicholas opened up about her experience of being raped over a prolonged period by a police officer who has permanent name suppression. The first person she told was her high school teacher.
"She asked me if it was okay to seek further advice and I was like, yeah of course. Because it's okay for people to ask for help. This is not a secret anymore."
Clearwater and Nicholas were critical of a new Ministry of Social Development initiative, to be introduced in June, requiring victims of sexual abuse to provide their name and date of birth.
"I'll fight it to the death. There's no way in hell this will pass as long as I'm standing. Silence is the biggest killer for us and this will only stop thousands more from coming forward." Research shows male survivors of sex abuse take an average 23 years to come forward.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
*Manline (06) 358 1211
*Abuse Rape and Crisis Support (06) 356 5868
*Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse (03) 365 3139
*24/7 HELPline (09) 623 1700
*If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 111