A pilot service is using Maori tikanga to treat men who have sexually abused children.
The sexual violence prevention service, called Korowai Tumanako, uses their cultural identity and concepts to show them the path to redemption.
Co-directors Joy Te Wiata and Russell Smith have been working in the harmful sexual behaviour (HSB) sector since the early 2000s. They've worked with over 500 adults and 300 youth in that time.
Te Wiata said statistics show that one in every three females in New Zealand has or will experience sexual violence and up to one in five males. Anecdotally, as many as nine out of 10 of their HSB adults had been a victim in the past, she said. And Maori make up 30 per cent of the people who access programmes for sexual violence, while only making up 15 per cent of the population.
Te Wiata said it was key to involve whanau and hapu in the process as often HSB was prevalent throughout the community.
"Like we had one whanau with several kids. A 17-year-old had abused his sister.
"As we worked with them we found out he'd been a victim by his teenage aunty when he was 10, as had his brother who was two years older. He'd also been a victim of that older brother. There were two others in the whanau who had also been victims. Out of that family there were five or six victims and three perpetrators.
"When you start opening some of these scenarios up you need to be able to work with the whole of the whanau and find ways to help. Rather than being punitive, bring restoration."
A Ministry of Social Development 2017 report identified multiple service gaps for people who had done HSB and a lack of funding for appropriate research.
As the result of several government reviews the sector is being further funded, including $3.7 million over three years for non-mandated adult HSB services.
MSD put out an open tender to find a provider to work holistically with non-mandated Māori adults who have engaged in HSB to help prevent sexual harm, increase safety, and restore and enhance the mana of whānau and communities.
Korowai Tumanako won the contract and the programme is set to be launched in Te Atatu this month. It will cater for 10 to 20 men at a time and run until June 2019.
Sapere Research Group will evaluate the pilot, partnering with an independent kaupapa Māori researcher and evaluator.
The first step to redemption is to learn about themselves, Te Wiata explained. The men are reminded of their whakapapa and ancestors with "identities of mana". They then talk about how the HSB doesn't fit in with their identity.
Explaining boundaries as "tapu" (sacred) is one way the service uses tikanga. Instead of explaining the internal and external boundaries most people observe they talk about what it means to violate tapu. A person needs to be invited by a karanga (caller) before crossing into that space, much like a marae.
"If you say there's a line then someone's going to put their toe over it. If you say that's tapu then people think long and hard before they deliberately violate tapu.
"You can just see the penny dropping."
A "perfect storm" occurs before someone offends. They often have things like a background in family violence, substance abuse, have been victims themselves and then an event occurs like a relationship break down or stressful situation.
"In the end all abuse only occurs when the person chooses to do it. Ultimately it's a choice."
Isolating children was a key trait of an offender, Te Wiata said. Often they groom the caregiver first and establish trust so the adult lets the child be alone with them.
Men Against Sexual Violence (Massive) spokesman Mike Shaw said the work Korowai Tumanako does is "courageous".
"Their approaches are unique in the sense they don't demonise offenders. But they also hold no punches. And you get that sense they care."
Shaw believed young men's attitudes to women and children needed to be educated to prevent HBS - particularly to counteract the harmful effect of pornography. He said all men sat on a spectrum of sexual behaviour.
"At one end we've got healthy views on women, children and sex, at the other end is completely deviant stuff.
"We want to get all males moving along that line to healthy thinking and behaviour."
Sexual violence service updates
•Three-year contracts have been finalised with the existing 33 sexual violence service providers to deliver sexual harm crisis support services.
•National sexual harm helpline
The helpline 'Safe to talk' will go live on February 19, 2018 in the Canterbury region.
From 16 April 2018, 'Safe to talk' will go live nationally and will include feedback from sexual harm service providers and people using the new service.
Once fully implemented, 'Safe to talk' will provide, for the first time, nationwide 24/7 access to free, confidential information and support to those affected by sexual harm.
There will be multiple modes of access: phone, website, online chat, email SMS/texting and social media. People will be able to access information, crisis counselling and support, and be referred to local service providers.
•Discussions and contract negotiations are under way for some areas where the Ministry has identified gaps in crisis support services. The Ministry will work to engage with organisations in areas where service gaps still remain.