Pela* grew up with her little sister in one of the outer islands. They moved to the main island when their mother married a man in Tongatapu. Pela is 13 and her sister is 11. They don’t go to school. Pela and her sister stayed home with their mum and stepfather. The plantation was being looked after by their stepfather. After a few months in Tongatapu, their stepfather’s behaviour changed. He always asked Pela to go to the plantation with him where he raped her. She was very scared and could not call for help, because he told her if she said a word he would kill her. He threatened to do the same to her little sister if she told anyone. So she stayed silent. Pela lived in fear for months, and found out her stepfather was doing the same to her little sister. They were both very scared of him, and they didn’t know how to tell their mum. Pela’s mum found out after a woman who was having an affair with her husband told her that she knew what he had been doing with the daughters. Pela’s mum was shocked and asked the girls if it was true. They told her everything that he had done.
Pela’s mum went straight to WCCC to seek help. The Counsellor told them about WCCC’s services including the police officer stationed at the centre, and they filed a statement at the WCCC office. The 2 girls stayed at the Safehouse for a few months until their court hearing. All the staff of the WCCC worked together with the Police Department for the safety of these two sisters. The stepfather was arrested and pleaded guilty. He died while in prison waiting for sentencing. The family moved back to the outer island. The Centre is still in contact with them to provide ongoing counselling.
*The name of the client have been changed to protect the clients’ identity.
A first hand account of child abuse from a client of WCCC
When I came to the centre I was so crazy. I was thinking of suicide – I just felt like my life was really not important. My uncle was hitting me a lot and I was very afraid of going home.
All the time though I was thinking of my mum in Australia. I haven’t seen her since I was a baby – and all I want in my life is to see her again. I can’t wait to give her a big hug.
The centre was really cool. I thank God so much for giving me to the Centre. They made me feel safe, they talked to me about how I felt, and they helped me to work out what comes next in my life. They let me talk to my friends and they even brouguht over my clothes. Now they are helping me to meet up with my mum.
I took my uncle to court. Now I have forgiven him for what he has done, but he will go to prison if he hits me again. I feel safer having gone to court – even though it was embarrassing and frightening.
My only wish is that I had come to the centre earlier. I know now that lots of people care about me and that my life is important and I have lots to do in my life. It’s cool – I feel safe now.
It was a Friday night and I already had permission from my dad to go to our church dance with my sister and cousin. We didn’t have a ride so we went somewhere else instead. My younger sister and cousin hung out with our friends while I was talking with my boyfriend. It was already late at that time and my dad called and said that he is so angry that we weren’t home. He said he was waiting for us with a bunch of power cords. We were too frightened to go back so we decided to sleep over at my friend’s house.
He kept on calling and threatened us that he’ll find us and cut our heads off. I was so afraid, I ignored his calls. But he called my cousin’s phone and convinced us to come back home saying that he won’t punish us anymore.
We went home but as soon as I got out the car, I got the feeling that he was lied. I walked in the house and saw a bunch of power cords in the living room. He beat us so hard with the cords that the neighbours could hear us crying. Then he locked us in a room and continued the beating. He burned all my clothes, cut my hair and smashed my phone. Afterwards I wasn’t allowed to go out of the house anymore or to any other church youth functions.
I was so afraid and felt that my life was worthless. So I ran away and stayed with my boyfriend at his house and we thought that getting married was the answer, but then again it wasn’t, so his family took me back to my father. I didn’t want to stay at home anymore because my father was so tough on me not allowing me to go anywhere. My cousin and I decided to go and look for our own life – that’s when I met a reverend and he helped us. He took us to a lawyer and the lawyer referred us to the centre.
I was so happy that someone was actually paying attention to me and listened to what I had to say. Right now I am under the protection of the centre which I find very helpful and supportive. At first I cried and felt lonely because I missed my friends. But later on after hanging with the other clients I was happy and very safe.
So I just want my fellow youth mates to know that there is still a chance when you feel worthless. Help is there – it’s just a matter of believing in yourself and having the courage to go and look for help despite what your friends might think of you. Whenever you feel afraid and lonely and can’t think of what to do anymore the centre is a very welcoming place for you to go and seek help and support from.
A first hand account from a survivor of incest who is a client of WCCC.
When I was 8 years old my father began to treat me in a way that is not right for a father to do to his daughter. He gave me money $10 to $20 and told me not to tell anyone, and most of the time I was scared and think to myself what I would do to overcome this and what will happen if someone knew.
All these things that happen to me were all done at our own house, and I think to myself maybe I am an adopted child of the family. Eventually my mother left the country and this is the saddest time in my life. I knew that my mother left me but she didn’t even know what is happening to me. On the day she left I drew a picture of an aero-plane when it departed at the airport.
I moved to stay with my older sister but my father still continued the same thing to me. Most of the time when my father came to pick me up from my sister’s house I was very unhappy when seeing him, and sometimes my sister would get mad at me and ask why I didn’t want to go with my dad, but she did not know what was happening, but because of her trust in him that he is our father, she told me to go. It was very hard for me, but at that time I didn’t have the courage to tell her.
Now I am 14 and one day I was lying on my bed in my bedroom and I saw a book on the table in my room and its says, “Hold on to your belief”. I grab the book and read it and its talking about being obedient and being a virgin. This has encouraged me to speak out and talk about what is happening to me.
On the same week, I went to church on Sunday and I knew for sure I will go and ask our Bishop for time to talk to him about what I’ve been going through and finally I fulfill my dream. I explained everything to him.
So the Bishop went to the police and explained it to them and the police came to my sister’s house and take me, they questioned me and recorded everything. After that they told me they will take me to WCCC’s Safe House which is the best and safe place they think I should go to while they do their work.
While I’m staying at the Safe House I feel safe and it helps me a lot trying to get rid of the problems that I face and other things in my life. So I encourage all women that they struggle with many problems in their life or experience the same problem I am going through to speak up and tell someone that you know for sure that she or he will help you, and I believe it give us an important message to always be careful with ourselves of what is happening in our life!
I was only 10 years old when it started. My parents would often tell me to go to the local shop to get everyday necessities for the household like bread, butter and tinned fish.
One day the shop keeper told me to enter through the back door and I did. He told me that he had some chocolates from NZ to share with me – which made me excited.
The next trip to the shop he told me to again enter through the back door. I did as he said. He told me to sit on a small box while he read me a story from a picture book he had. He showed me pictures of women who were naked. He told me not to be afraid and to look at the faces of the women because they were not scared but were happy. He told me to look at their body parts and how beautiful they were and asked me if I wanted to be as beautiful as the women in the book. He told me to go home and not to tell anyone because I would get a hiding and to keep it our secret. He told me to go back the next day and get some chocolates.
I wasn’t sure if I should go back and I was scared. But my father sent me to the shop and I had to go. When I arrived, the shop keeper told me to enter through the back. He gave me a bar of chocolate to eat and told me to sit down. He told me that he just wanted to compare me to the women in the book and that all I had to do was take my underwear off and open my legs so that he could see if it were the same. He touched himself while he looked at me. He did this often until one day he actually touched me.
I was frightened and I couldn’t tell anyone because I was scared I would get a hiding. I couldn’t take it anymore and one day I told my cousin and she told me that she had a plan.
Every time I would be sent to the shop she would come with me and she would do the purchasing. I could tell that the shop keeper was very angry and he kept asking my cousin where was I? He told her that I had a “mo’ua” a debt to pay and that it was for all the chocolate bars I had eaten. He eventually told my father about the ‘debt’ and my father gave me a hiding.
I never spoke to anyone about this until 12 years later. It has affected my work and my relationship with others. I was happy to finally get some counseling with the WCCC to unpack the horrible feelings and fears I have carried with me all these years.
I encourage other women and girls and even boys and men who have been abused to do the same. Counseling is free and non-judgmental and you do it at your own pace but it certainly HELPS to move on. I thank God that I have had this counselling.
I am thirteen years of age. I was repeated in form one twice because of missing school too much. There were ten of us children in the family. My parents separated and my mother was having a de-facto relationship with children of her own while my father was having a de-facto relationship with another woman with children of their own. My father took four of us, myself and my twin sister and two of my brothers, while my mother took five. One of us died from an accident in a very young age.
My stepmother sometime sends me and my twin sister to sell leis (kahoa) instead of going to school. She would make us stay home and babysit her babies; we would do the house work, including cooking and washing. If she thinks that we’ve been misbehave than we will go without dinner that evening. We tend to run away a lot from home to our grandparents, but she would come and get us back and warn us and sometimes make our father hit us not to go to our grandparents. We then run away and live with other people but she would find us eventually and bring us home. People thought that she loved us when she indents to find us and bring us home but it was only so that we come home and do the work.
As we run away, we do robbery sometimes in order to survive, and we weren’t interested in school anymore. Along the way I got raped three times, the first two rapes they were strangers, I did speak up but no one believed me, the third time, he was the neighbor who happen to live together with his girlfriend and when I told her about him raping me, the girlfriend went to the police and report it. I was then taken to the Safe House. While I was at Safe House I was given help so that I can be able to see things clearly and can be able to see my future ahead of me. Now I regret not going to school, and realize what happens to me when running from home, most likely I will be access to abuse of any kinds. Now I can’t wait to go home and start a new life and go back to school.
Without the Safe House, maybe I was still being out there experiencing different kinds of abuses. I count myself lucky that I did get help on the right time, because something worst might happen to me if it was not reported to the police.
In the Pacific physical and sexual abuse is one of the most under-reported crimes.
This is the story of Mele*, a survivor of sexual abuse, and the role the Women and Children Crisis Centre can play in supporting survivors of abuse.