This morning actor Lee Rene Naufahu was sentenced to one year of home detention for indecently assaulting six women.

The offending took place between 2011 to 2013 in Naufahu's Auckland acting classes.
He initially denied any wrongdoing - and his admission came just a week before he was due to go on trial in the Auckland District Court.

Today the Herald can reveal for the first time what the 47-year-old former Shortland Street star put his victims through.

Two of the women have provided their full victim impact statements in a bid to show just how traumatic the offending was, and the long-lasting effects it has had on their lives.


Shorter versions of the statements were provided to Judge Rob Ronayne today for sentencing.

But the women wanted their voices heard in full.

Here are their stories.

Warning: This content may be confronting for some readers. Scroll down for helplines

"You're going to be the New Zealand Charlize Theron," Naufahu told the 19-year-old.

He was a well-known and respected actor; she a teenager just entering the industry and hoping to learn the skills and techniques that would propel a screen career.

"He expressed a desire to help me reach my full potential as he really saw 'something' in me," she said.

The woman progressed quickly from beginner to advanced stages in Naufahu's acting classes, and he invited her to take part in one-on-one sessions with him.

"Under this close attention I was flattered and agreed to take part in these coaching sessions, which he did not charge for - though they came with the stipulation that I was not to tell anyone about them," she said, adding Naufahu explained that he didn't want other students to be jealous.

But there was another motive to the classes: the woman, like five others, was indecently assaulted by Naufahu.

The former Shortland Steet actor pleaded guilty in September last year. Photo / Nick Reed
The former Shortland Steet actor pleaded guilty in September last year. Photo / Nick Reed

The cost was years of ongoing personal pain - likely to affect her for the rest of her life, she said.

"This has caused me lasting physical, mental and emotional damage which I am still working to understand seven years later," the woman, now 27, said.

She described the acting classes.

"During these sessions Rene systematically, over a period of months, proceeded to groom me to the point of ignoring appropriate boundaries [to] break down any resistance to his physical and sexual violations," she said.

"He kissed me and forced his tongue into my mouth, groped my entire body and touched my breasts and genital area as though he owned them.

"Any protests were met with soothing explanations like 'this is what it takes to become a better actor', or 'this is acting in the real world'.

"At one stage I remember him clearly hiding an erection behind his hands, at the same time excitedly talking about how talented I was and how we were making amazing progress; he couldn't believe how incredible I was at this.

Former Shortland Street star Rene Naufahu had earlier admitted indecently assaulting six women.

"The feeling of elation I felt at the time, thinking I really was a talented actress and could actually take this somewhere as my career caused me to ignore my deeper sense of alarm that something truly wrong was happening in that closed-off room, with windows covered in movie posters and a locked door preventing any interruptions to Rene's abuse."

As time went on, she said that alarm sounded louder and she stopped seeing Naufahu.

"I started to push the memories of those coaching sessions away to the back of my mind - I knew something grossly wrong had occurred, but I didn't know who to talk to or what to do about it," she said.

"At the same time I felt an extreme level of guilt and worry whenever I came across Rene or talked to him," she said.

"At the time I couldn't understand what was happening at all, but the feelings grew until any time I thought I was going to come across him, I would physically break out in signs of fear, sweating and shaking and losing all confidence no matter who else was around me at the same time."

She started to avoid any situation or location where Naufahu might be and she "resolved not to mentally revisit" the assaults.

After about a year a relative asked her why she had "given up on acting" and she disclosed the abuse.

"Something burst and I blurted out 'because he's a creepy guy who used to kiss me in one-on-one acting classes'," she recalled.

She said she "downplayed" the level of abuse until she was encouraged by her relative to talk about what really happened.

"[It was] a moment which initiated a series of events that eventually led us to where we are now," she said.

The woman said it was "impossible to describe the level of stress and negative emotion" in her life since she made the decision "to prevent Rene from abusing women in this manner ever again".

"While I have never wavered in my resolve that this was the right thing to do, there have been multiple instances of public denial and media manipulation from Rene and his PR team that have been offensive and sickening, continuing to display this gross imbalance of power between the men with influence and the vulnerable women trying to find justice and prevent this from ever reoccurring," she said.

She said at times, the process had "felt like a joke".

"From the moment his name suppression was lifted I have watched as he convinced other groups of society of his innocence, even going as far as to publicly baptise himself in association with a local church group, as though this would somehow wash away his crimes in the eyes of the public, the church and the court system," she said.

"It has been embarrassing to watch and subjected me to moments of insecurity, extreme worry and unpredictable darkness, sending me back to that closed-off room to relive the worst moments of his disgusting behaviour again and again.

"I had to realise the effect this had on my relationships and trust of other people, the way I relate to men in my life as well as how I react to complete strangers, ongoing triggers that will send me back to these experiences and even the way I have abused alcohol and drugs to shield myself from the experiences and feelings I did not want to recall."

Rene Naufahu was baptised during the same weekend he lost his name suppression. Photo / Instagram
Rene Naufahu was baptised during the same weekend he lost his name suppression. Photo / Instagram

The woman has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and continues to attend counselling sessions.

She said Naufahu owed a debt to society for his offending.

"There has been collective and intense pain felt by many as a direct result of Rene's actions, pain that will last far longer than those short few sessions spent locked away in a closed-off room under his abusive control," she said.

As the film and television industries, among others, come to grips with dozens of accusations of sexual abuse, she also wanted other men to take a strong message from the case - and to encourage women to come forward, no matter who had abused them.

"It's clear to me that this kind of behaviour is rife through the entertainment industry and as recent media headlines have shown, far from unique to the New Zealand landscape," she said.

"This is also a timely opportunity for us to set an example and show that this kind of abusive action is not tolerated in society, and a chance for us to demonstrate to vulnerable women in any industry, at any age, that they will be heard and serious action will be taken in any similar situation."

'These sickening thoughts sat in my head for years'

Another of Naufahu's victims shared her story with the Herald and said the most significant effect of his abuse was "the dissolution of my trust in my own intuition".

"Rebuilding that has taken years," she said.

"There was a long period of time where I didn't tell anyone about Rene's offending, fearful for the questions I would be faced with if I did - not knowing I was one of many, not alone.

"These sickening thoughts sat in my head for years. I was manipulated by someone I had given all my trust to."

The woman said after she stopped taking Naufahu's classes, she still had to see him during her work as a model.

"I was so scared he would ask me why I quit his classes or try to talk me into coming back.

"I would have to go into the bathrooms at [a] cafe next to the office and try to hold back from actually being sick."

Rene Naufahu arriving at the Auckland District Court with his lawyer Ron Mansfield before his change of plea. Photo / Nick Reed
Rene Naufahu arriving at the Auckland District Court with his lawyer Ron Mansfield before his change of plea. Photo / Nick Reed

She said she still has moments where she thinks she's seen Naufahu in public.

"It has never actually been him, just some other man - but the lightning rod of fear that hits in that moment is overwhelming, knowing that he knows I 'blew the whistle'."

The woman has been seeing a clinical psychologist since she reported Naufahu to police.

She struggled to cope with attention from other men and said her experience with Naufahu had left her "very uncomfortable, anxious and introverted".

She has also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and her mental state made it hard for her to focus on her work and studies.

"I've really had to put a lot of work into getting my mind back on track and free of negative thoughts in order to do well at work," she said.

"Before I met Rene and even in the years after my experience with him - when I was ignoring what had happened - I was an excellent student and worker with a clear plan and goals.

"The stress of talking about what happened and the fear that it brought up derailed that."

She said the "ordeal" with Naufahu had put a strain on her relationship with her parents, who found it difficult to comprehend what she'd been a victim to.

Rene Naufahu leaving court after an earlier appearance. Photo / Doug Sherring
Rene Naufahu leaving court after an earlier appearance. Photo / Doug Sherring

In the lead-up to Naufahu's scheduled trial the woman said she suffered immensely, during "one of the worst times of my life".

"The stress sat in my stomach for weeks, my heart rate felt constantly elevated and I was on the verge of tears all the time," she recalled.

"I don't even know if I could have gone into that courtroom without vomiting beforehand."

She said people she confided in, some friends of Naufahu, struggled to accept what had happened.

"There have been social consequences of Rene's offending toward me - it became hard to trust or talk to people that might know it was me who went to the police."

Watching Naufahu speak to media after his name suppression was lifted was difficult.

She felt his repeated denials against the allegations made his victims look like they were "horrible liars".

"It was horrible to think people were reading his words and believing them, especially how adamant he was that it was all just a witchhunt by scorned women," she said.

"It was very hard to silently wait while he was allowed opportunities to defend himself and we weren't.

"His statement to the media when he pleaded guilty made me feel angry and upset and that he was still trying to discredit us victims.

"He might have mentioned some small apology to us women, but it didn't sound to me to be one bit sincere or coming from a place of understanding what he has done," she said.

"His statement felt more concerned with himself and his ego, which seems strange after pleading guilty to sexual crimes."

The woman hoped she could move on with her life now that her abuser had been sentenced.

"I'm so glad that Rene's period of offending against women has come to an end, and despite the huge pain and suffering he's caused I can finally start to truly put his actions towards me in the past," she said.

Where to get help

• If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline on: 0800227 233 (08002B SAFE).

• If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.​

• For more information about help for sexual assault survivors, go to Rape Prevention Education.