Louise Nicholas talks at Massey about movie based on her rape battle

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The shocking true story of Louise Nicholas’ fight for justice has fuelled her crusade to help other survivors of childhood and adult rape. Speaking at a public lecture recently at Albany’s Massey University which screened a recent New Zealand television movie “Consent” about her battle based on her book “Louise Nicholas - My Story”, the mother of four, who now works with NZ’s Rape Prevention Education as the National Sexual Violence Survivor Advocate, talked openly about her experiences as a victim of a crime committed against her by serving members of the NZ Police. She survived a justice system that saw her battle her way through two deposition hearings and five court cases.
 
“I was slammed around the courtroom like a tennis ball, was told that I was nothing but an uneducated, vindictive, sex crazed liar by defence lawyers, but still I held my head high,” said Louise. “I knew the truth, I knew what happened and nothing they could say or do in that courtroom could hurt me anymore. It was my time to take back the power and control that was stripped from me. This was my justice.”
 
Louise Nicholas, married to her husband Ross for 26 years, has four children. “My family is my life. Without their love, support and encouragement I would never have walked the rocky path to seek the justice I felt I deserved or been able to take on the role of Survivor Advocate with Rape Prevention Education.”
 
Dr Shirley Julich, Senior Lecturer in the College of Health’s School of Health and Social Services, is part of an elite group of international researchers whose work is contributing to the development of restorative justice, particularly focusing on how it addresses sexual violence. She says sexual violence in New Zealand remains a largely invisible war that New Zealanders need to confront and stop.
 
“One in four girls and one in eight boys in New Zealand are sexually abused by the age of 16,” says Dr Julich. “The traditional criminal justice system failed Louise Nicholas. Restorative justice for victims of sexual violence is a powerful alternative.
 
“Once a woman takes the first step to disclose sexual violation, the battle is just beginning. She will need to fight to get funding for counselling. Our support agencies fight every day for a limited amount of funding. Those who work in agencies that support victim-survivors of sexual violence are at the front line of an invisible war, a private battle that no one sees. There are no bombs, no soldiers or rebels, but my colleagues feel they are constantly under attack. From day to day they don’t know if they will have the funding to continue their work. It should not be surprising that they speak the language of conflict and war. They experience battle fatigue every day.
 
“And their battle is caused by gender difference, perpetrated mostly by men against women, men against children and yes men against men too but women are also perpetrators. Often the perpetrators are the very people who should protect them, support them and nurture them. Often victim-survivors are sexually violated in their own homes, in their own beds.
 
“It’s a war and it is happening all around us. Sadly I don’t see any evidence of it stopping. It amazes me that in a few short decades we have been able to change public opinion about drink driving and smoking. But we still have a long way to go on gender justice.”
 
Today, Louise Nicholas works with survivors of sexual violence, their families and communities, providing advocacy and advice. She was voted NZ Herald’s New Zealander of the Year 2007 and was also placed in the top 10 as one of “New Zealand’s Living Treasures”. Louise co-wrote the bestselling book “Louise Nicholas – My Story” with Phil Kitchin, the Dominion Post reporter who broke Louise’s story in 2004 leading to a full Police investigation by Operation Austin and a Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct.
 
Louise Nicholas’s speech at Massey University’s Albany campus included a special screening of the Louise Nicholas TV movie. In it, viewers travel back to 1993, when Louise Nicholas made her first shocking accusations about being raped by four policemen. While some believed her, others did not. “Consent” is a harrowing tale of abuse detailing New Zealand’s highest profile rape case. The case became one of the most controversial inquiries into the New Zealand Police. It divided pubic opinion and brought thousands to the streets in protest.
Dr Kim McGregor, executive director of Rape Crisis, said Louise’s story is key in continuing to expose New Zealand's rape culture.
"Because of the bravery of many survivors of sexual violence like Louise, the public will no longer tolerate it when cases of sexual violence, such as the so-called Roast Busters case, come to light.”
Several trials and 20 years later, Louise Nicholas recounted how her testimony led to the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct, resulting in the damning 2007 Bazley Report. Former police officers Brad Shipton, Bob Schollum and Assistant Commissioner Clint Rickards were found not guilty of Nicholas' rape, although Shipton and Schollum were already behind bars for another rape. Former police officer John Dewar was convicted of four charges of attempting to obstruct or defeat the course of justice and was jailed for four and a half years.
“The term sexual violence or child sexual abuse are umbrella terms and at times quite euphemistic. It could more accurately be described as sexual torture,” says Dr Julich. “Sexual violence is a violation of basic human rights.”

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