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 victim advocate Louise Nicholas, as well as further interviews with journalists, broadcasters and New Zealand Herald weekday editor Murray Kirkness, listen to the podcast below. You can subscribe to Speaking Secrets on iHeartRadio and iTunes.

When the #MeToo movement came out of Hollywood, Louise Nicholas' father couldn't understand it.

It was a surprising reaction from a man whose daughter became a household name and sparked a major overhaul of the New Zealand Police by going public with allegations officers raped her when she was a teenager.

Nicholas said her dad questioned why celebrities were coming out of the woodwork with accusations from years ago against the likes of Harvey Weinstein.

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Louise Nicholas says her own father couldn't understand why it took some of Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault accusers several years to come forward with their claims. Photo / AP
Louise Nicholas says her own father couldn't understand why it took some of Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault accusers several years to come forward with their claims. Photo / AP

"I looked at him, I'm going 'Dad you are kidding me' . . . I said, 'how long was it before I spoke out? And you never judged me,'" Nicholas said.

"'You stood beside me and you walked with me, but you never judged me for keeping it that secret for so long, and you know the reasons why I kept that secret because at the end of the day, if I had spoken out when I was 13 years old, who was going to believe me?'"

Nicholas could tell by the look on her father's face he knew she was right.

She went public in 2004 with claims she was raped by police officers in the 1980s, and that the initial investigation was mishandled.

Historic sex charges were then laid against two former police officers, Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton, and the then-Assistant Police Commissioner Clint Rickards.

The men were found not guilty after a high-profile trial in 2006.

Louise Nicholas still gets stopped in the street by fellow survivors after one of the most public rape trials in New Zealand's history. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Louise Nicholas still gets stopped in the street by fellow survivors after one of the most public rape trials in New Zealand's history. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Controversy erupted in the aftermath of the court case when it was revealed Shipton and Schollum were already in prison for the rape of a woman in Mount Maunganui in 1989.

Former policeman John Dewar, who originally investigated Nicholas' allegations, was later jailed for attempting to obstruct the course of justice.

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The Crown argued the cover-up happened because Dewar was a close friend of one of the accused.

A Commission of Inquiry into police conduct led by Dame Margaret Bazley identified major failings with the way police handled sexual assault cases.

Her 2007 report made 47 recommendations to the New Zealand Police.

Former top policeman John Dewar in front of the judge at his sentencing at the Hamilton High Court in October 2007. Photo / File
Former top policeman John Dewar in front of the judge at his sentencing at the Hamilton High Court in October 2007. Photo / File

Nicholas was "petrified" when she was first invited to speak at the Royal New Zealand Police College to improve the way sexual assault allegations were dealt with.

Now Nicholas visits the Royal New Zealand Police College twice a year to help improve the way sexual assault allegations are dealt with, but she remembers being petrified when she was first invited to speak.

"I shook, I literally, physically shook, I was so scared."

Nicholas admits she despised all police for a long time.

"I hated police with a vengeance for many, many years. Every time I saw a police car or a uniform I was triggered to a point of hysteria."

She thought she was going to be thrown out of the college for telling her story, but when she arrived, Nicholas didn't know who was more scared of who.

"You could hear a pin drop on carpet. People were too scared to move and I felt really bad . . . you could actually see the fear that I believe they perhaps thought that I was going to go in there and tear [strips] off them."

She said what gave her the courage to speak was acknowledging it wasn't the entire New Zealand Police force that hurt her, it was individual members within it.

Despite the police overhaul, the #MeToo movement, and changing societal attitudes, Nicholas doesn't believe it will ever be easy to speak out.

"But education is a huge part of allowing people to talk and it's like giving permission for our children to say 'me too' as well."

Speaking Secrets artwork for a podcast and online feature on NZ Herald and Newstalk ZB June 2018
Speaking Secrets artwork for a podcast and online feature on NZ Herald and Newstalk ZB June 2018