This article is based on extracts from the Speaking Secrets podcast, a co-production by NZ Herald and Newstalk ZB. For the full episode with Greens co-leader Marama Davidson, as well as further interviews with criminologist Greg Newbold and Child Matters chief executive Jane Searle, listen to the podcast below. You can subscribe to Speaking Secrets on iHeartRadio and iTunes.

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson has given her first full interview about the sexual abuse she endured as a girl.

When Davidson was about 8 or 9 she was frequently visited in her bedroom at night by an older, distant relative who had been staying with her family for some time.

She has kept her secret for years to protect her family, but decades later she's choosing to share her story publicly.


It's uncomfortable for Davidson to speak out because she loves her family, who she said provide her with unconditional love in return.

"But I know that my family are so supportive of me, that they will understand that this also is my story.

"I have a right to tell this story and over the years that I didn't tell this story it was out of protecting my family, wanting to maintain the reputation of my family."

Davidson said in many cases having a strong and loving family could give people a different sense of obligation to them that can silence victims.

"You know straight away the people who love me will feel destroyed that they haven't kept me safe and I want to be very clear that the incidents of sexual abuse and sexual violence can happen to anyone and is happening to anyone."

She said she acted up as a child, screaming and yelling.

"I got really clingy to my parents. I didn't want them to leave my sight, because that's when the abuse was able to happen."

Davidson was confused and scared. She pretended to be asleep when she was being abused.

"I'm still thrown by this when I have to go back to that time."

She didn't understand what was happening to her, she didn't know there was a label for it and she didn't have the tools to address it.

"I had no understanding of what I was supposed to do in that moment and I felt frozen and silent."

She carried the secret until one day one of her female family members brought up her experience and they discovered Davidson wasn't the man's only victim. She said no charges were ever laid against the man, who has since died.

Today, Davidson is a high-profile politician and a mother herself.

Journalist Georgina Campbell explains why she made 'Speaking Secrets' and why it matters.

"I'm still thrown by this when I have to go back to that time so if I'm feeling like that with all my privileges and supports, I can't imagine how others feel.

"If I was a parent knowing that I didn't know what was going on and that was why my little girl didn't want me to leave, I'd be devastated, and we need to remove the fault from anybody but the perpetrator."

Davidson said people must reach out to one another to make it safe for people to talk about what they've just been through.

"This is really uncomfortable but that's a smaller price to pay than going to bed at night thinking there's no end to the sexual abuse that's going to happen."