Most survivors considered their financial settlements were not nearly enough to compensate for the pain and suffering they had endured or to help them rebuild their lives. Individuals whose physical and sexual abuse had profoundly affected their entire lives received payments in just the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. Toni Jarvis said the $38,000 he received was a poor substitute for a life lost. One survivor, Mr A, said institutions failed to fully appreciate the harm caused by abuse at such a young age. He said he had endured 40 years of despair, anguish and anger, and it had destroyed his life. Yet the Ministry of Social Development’s response was “sorry, here is $18,000 … don’t hassle us any more”.
Roy Takiaho said handing out money was the only answer State and faith-based organisations had. He said their goal was not to rebuild lives but to close cases as soon as possible. He said financial payment meant nothing to him – it was something to help his family. “I wanted answers. Those answers came in the form of money because that’s the only way the [g]overnment could answer it … just give a couple of dollars and sweep it under the carpet.”
One anonymous survivor said she was offered $5,000 an offer that left her feeling suicidal. She said: “I’ve gone through all this, opened up, and this is what I get.” Earl White said his settlement offer was “a joke and insult”, given the repeated sexual and physical abuse he had experienced, and given that the courts had confirmed his abuse. Mark Goold considered the $12,000 he was offered for a lifetime of abuse to be a disgrace and an insult. Anthony Waller, who was sexually abused by a Catholic priest at 12, asked for $50,000 in compensation and was offered $25,000. He said it was a cynical and heartless person who could offer him half what he had sought, and he did not believe the church’s argument that it lacked the means to make bigger settlements because “we have been giving them money for years – we have made them rich”.
State agencies calculated their monetary payments based on the acts of abuse, not the ongoing effects of abuse. Lawyers Sonja Cooper and Amanda Hill said the payments would be much higher if the effects of abuse were taken into account. A survivor echoed this sentiment, arguing there should be a fair and independent assessment of the life-long effects of abuse, such as lost education.
Most survivors said their payments were in no way enough to restore their lives or the lives of family members and others affected by the abuse. For some, the money went on repaying debt or supporting family members. Frankie Vegas said the amount simply “wasn’t enough to change the projection of my life or my kid’s lives in any significant way”. David Crichton pointed out the $15,000 redress payment he received for years of abuse paled in comparison to the approximately $10,000 per year his daughter received under the government’s Working for Families package. He said payments needed to be more in line with the actual costs that survivors and their families incurred in recovering from the abuse.
“I feel as though I have traumatised my family because of the way that I am. But the Ministry of Social Development don’t see this kind of trauma as something that is a central part of the redress process.”
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