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I was never safe or felt safe in or around the church

After surviving 10 years of hell, Anna* held on to hope her perpetrators would finally atone for the sins of the past.  Tim Scott investigates how the Presbyterian Church’s redress retraumatised Anna, convincing her it is washing its hands of accountability.

Anna* never had a childhood.

What was meant to be filled with innocence and joy was instead plagued by nightmares, isolation and loneliness.

Anna was raped, drugged and trafficked for 10 years as a child.

She was shared among a ring of paedophiles around Southland, Otago and as far as Christchurch.

It all transpired under the watch of the Presbyterian Support Services Association (PSSA), an offshoot of the Presbyterian Church.

“I was never safe or felt safe in or around the church,” Anna says.

“I experienced sexual abuse at post-church functions, Sunday school, Bible study, church picnics, live show outings, on weekends and in school holidays in parishioners’ homes.”

Last year, a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care unearthed just how far this paedophile ring stretched.

Once those revelations were exposed, Anna came forward.

She lodged an abuse claim with the church, demanding accountability, and recounted her trauma to its complaints review panel.

Not only was Anna the first survivor in New Zealand to undertake the redress process, she also advised the church on its process after it requested her help.

The panel compiled a 10-page report of her abuse which, along with a 25-page appendix, was distributed to the church’s council of assembly to make her a final offer of redress.

It concluded the Presbyterian Church held a degree of responsibility for Anna’s abuse.

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