Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Fringe of Darkness

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  • Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    I've no idea who the actress is, or what her motivations were for wanting the book stopped, but: when someone else talks about what happened to you, without your permission, it takes away your control - just as your control of what happened to your life and your body was taken away.

    Having been on a commune where sexual abuse occurred, albeit in an entirely different context to Centrepoint (hidden and not condoned once discovered), I would be pretty cross and likely feel disempowered to learn that even a responsible journalist was planning to write about what happened to me, or what other people thought had happened to me, or even what the court proceedings say happened to me, without my input and permission. Alternatively, or as well, it could well be a giant trigger that I might not want in my life at that particular time, because you never know how these things will catch you or when, and you think you're all cool and have found some equilibrium, and then you're surprised to find something catches you off guard and there's some part of it that you're not all cool with after all.

    So while you say you "grieve" for the book that could of been, and I have some sympathy for all the work you put in, I find the bulk of my sympathy lies with the actress, whoever she is, because she's the one who's been living with all this all these years, and will continue to live with it well after you've moved on to your next book.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Nat Curnow,

    As a young teenager you are so impressionable and vulnerable, especially when it comes to sex and I keep some memories from those times that still disturb me today. I recently caught up with a friend who was a young victim, we had a lot of of discussion about that time and one of the thoughts we had was that we had witnessed, first hand the sordid, collapse of the hippy dream.

    I can't imagine what the survivors have been though. But I think there is great value in what Anke and Emma have been doing: because sexual abuse is not limited to hippy communes, or even to communes in general. There are generally people who know of abuse, but turn a blind eye, or explain it away. If we can understand how this happens, we can hope to prevent more abuse in future.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3894 posts Report Reply

  • Hat, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Yes, exactly.
    I'm really, really uncomfortable reading Richter's story because I think the identity of that actress is fairly easily guessed by anyone with a passing familiarity with the Centrepoint history. The details Richter has given about her here – magazine stories she participated in etc – mean that anyone could do a little research and identify her. It seems odd, at the very least, to me for Richter to write about how uncomfortable uncovering all of that history made her, while including details in the article and here that expose someone who has made it clear she wants no further exposure.

    Since Oct 2015 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    So while you say you “grieve” for the book that could of been, and I have some sympathy for all the work you put in, I find the bulk of my sympathy lies with the actress, whoever she is, because she’s the one who’s been living with all this all these years, and will continue to live with it well after you’ve moved on to your next book.

    That’s extremely unfair to Anke. It isn’t wrong of her to view public court files – that’s what research is. Was she planning to out anyone? No. There will often be a tension between between the party that that wants to tell the story and the party that exercises a right not to speak – this story more than most. It happens in journalism. It’s wholly unnecessary to find a villain here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Hat,

    The details Richter has given about her here – magazine stories she participated in etc – mean that anyone could do a little research and identify her.

    It would also come up in any clippings search on the subject of the Centrepoint crimes, which is precisely what anyone doing any research would find.

    I wholly understand the right and desire not to talk again about something like this, but, like I say, it's something that will be in any clippings search. You can properly avoid re-publishing the name on request, but you can't pretend the magazine didn't run a major feature.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Anke Richter, in reply to Hat,

    Hat - thank you for pointing that out. I have taken part of my comment down so that this woman is less identifiable. The reason for giving more context (i.e. about the publication where she went public) was to show that she had sought a large forum, in a respected magazine - and yet she was horrified by the thought of someone mentioning her name in this context years later. That's the contradiction or complexity I wanted to show. Her story was such a prominent one and so relevant to many things that happened at Centrepoint - every interviewee referred to her case and her persona at some point, in one way or another - that it would have been journalistic neglect to leave her and her family out of my book. My defamation lawyer was adamant that she had no right to stop me from mentioning what was already out in the public arena. But I was torn between what was my right to do as a journalist and my compassion for those who had suffered at Centrepoint and reacted with panic. It's interesting that not just the perpetrators had that fear.

    Lyttelton • Since May 2007 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    because she’s the one who’s been living with all this all these years

    She's one of the ones. So is Louise, on whom the article focuses. Louise, while she struggled, wanted her story told. Anke's interviews led to her receiving an apology from the woman I talk about in this column. Angie Meiklejohn is organising a meeting for former Centrepoint children next month. Anke is still getting communications from new Centrepoint survivors, talking about what happened for the first time.

    These people were like one massive dysfunctional family. All their stories intertwine. They all feel differently about what they went through, react differently, want different things. But how do you tell Louise's story without touching on that of the actress?

    Sympathy, fortunately, is not a finite resource.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I disagree. There is a villain. Luckily, he’s dead. There are possibly other villains who are still alive. Of course Anke is not one of them.
    It’s certainly not wrong of Anke to view public files; that is indeed what research is.

    You say “There will often be a tension between between the party that that wants to tell the story and the party that exercises a right not to speak – this story more than most. It happens in journalism.” It certainly does. But I think journalists sometimes forget that wanting to tell a story doesn’t always give someone the right to tell it.

    In this case there is of course the tension between the rights of those who want their story told, and those who don’t (and who have the right to keep their story to themselves). Having now read the Metro piece, I think Anke has done a good job of navigating that difficult path.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Hat, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I'm querying identifying her as the 'former actress' at all – it's clear that she doesn't want to be associated with Centrepoint at this time, so why not use a less identifiable descriptor for her? I think my discomfit lies in the balance between what Anke describes above as what is her 'right to do as a journalist and my compassion for those who had suffered at Centrepoint'. I don't know what the right balancing point for those things is and I feel really uneasy about it.

    Since Oct 2015 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Hat, in reply to Anke Richter,

    Thank you for clarifying that, Anke. I appreciate that it's a very difficult story to tell and a fine balance to reach.

    Since Oct 2015 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Nat Curnow,

    the sordid, collapse of the hippy dream.

    Interesting point. But I’d add that Bert wasn’t of the hippie generation – born in 1925, he was a 52 year old sexual predator by the time he formed Centrepoint. I have no doubts he had offended well before that. The hippie generation (largely boomers, I assume) and their offspring were his prey. An accomplished predator – he sold vile, perverted snakeoil to a contingent of misguided adult consumers. As his son said in the eulogy for his father;

    by the time Centrepoint got started, he had figured out how to set himself up as Alpha male. He surrounded himself with an awesome bunch of strong, capable, and desirable women; and this attracted a number of on-to-it men who could see that there were plenty to go around.

    http://menz.org.nz/2012/eulogy-for-bert-potter/

    "On-to-it men" meaning other sexual predators. And Bert's criminal/mental illness never changed from what I’ve read of interviews with him post his prison sentence. From the Massey study, this came to light;

    Potter blackmailed children into having sex by threatening to separate them from their families.

    To call anything this organisation did to be “therapy” (implying a health or well-being benefit) shows (to my mind) a lack of understanding of the nature of sexual predation. If one wants to read a difficult story to tell, from an author who really had to suffer – not to get “the story” – but rather to get the offenders, then this is the book to read;

    http://www.wheelers.co.nz/books/9780473054069-is-that-you-daddy/

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    To call anything this organisation did to be “therapy” (implying a health or well-being benefit) shows (to my mind) a lack of understanding of the nature of sexual predation.

    I was waiting for someone to spell it out. Thank you.

    All and every hallmark of a sexual predator...with the added evil of 'charisma'.

    Almost unbelievable that a single person could hold so many in his thrall for so long.

    I felt sick after visiting the menz website.

    Almost as sick as when I read the book you've linked to.

    This story needs to be told...for history, for Louise and Angie, for those who wish to remain un-named.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to ,

    Sorry about my spelling back there. I tend to get lost on the long sentences.

    I’d rather you spelled every single word wrong than you not be here Steven :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Hat,

    I think my discomfit lies in the balance between what Anke describes above as what is her ‘right to do as a journalist and my compassion for those who had suffered at Centrepoint’. I don’t know what the right balancing point for those things is and I feel really uneasy about it.

    Yeah, that's fair enough. Sorry if I came across too snippy there. I realise this is difficult in ways I can't even imagine.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    I’d rather you spelled every single word wrong than you not be here Steven

    I certainly second that!

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Oh, Anke, I was just glad to be able to help. And of course that was the hardest thing - that it wasn't about EVIL.

    Evil is never evil, when it looks in the mirror. You have been looking into these people's mirrors.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    I was waiting for someone to spell it out. Thank you.

    You're welcome - and you too, steven.

    I would like to say alot more about the Metro article but it would likely be offensive to the author and others here, so I’ll leave it at that.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    This story needs to be told…for history, for Louise and Angie, for those who wish to remain un-named.

    I will say one more thing. I don’t know that this type of story is a path toward healing for those that need and deserve healing. I’d rather see a book on the life history and profile of the paedophile that was Bert Potter. And such research needs a professional criminologist and a clinician’s involvement. And it needs to not only inform us of the profile of a sexual predator – so that we can better recognise them amongst us – but it also needs to explore why, in particular mothers end up exposing their children to this potential for abuse.

    In my opinion, it is women and mothers who are ultimately responsible for saving children from this fate. God designed us to be nurturers. Most mothers who become involved in this type of mayhem are not bad people, they too are victims, they too are weak and vulnerable – but at the end of the day, they (and women in general) have to become the future saviours if we as a society really want to break the cycle and prevent this type of horror in future.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    And it needs to not only inform us of the profile of a sexual predator – so that we can better recognise them amongst us – but it also needs to explore why, in particular mothers end up exposing their children to this potential for abuse.

    I did have a copy of Peter Haynes' book. I gave it away to someone who needed to know that they were not the only one to experience such horrors in their youth, not the only one struggling with daily life as a damaged person. Worse, not the only "survivor' of childhood sexual abuse trying to parent.

    As you say, it is women and mothers who are ultimately responsible...(never mind god...but nature dictates this)

    You hold this child in your arms, and love binds and blinds you. No harm will befall this child within the reach of your arms.

    Then, your own childhood comes rushing back.

    You ask yourself..."what was wrong with me that my mother couldn't love and care for me, the way I love my child."

    Because, in the absence of anyone else taking responsibility...or society (through the courts or a book perhaps? ) placing the responsibility firmly in the hands of the perpetrators and enablers....the child will blame themselves.

    We need to properly describe what happened at Centrepoint.
    What happened to other children.
    What is still happening to children.

    Evil....
    adjective
    1.
    profoundly immoral and wicked.
    "his evil deeds"
    synonyms: wicked, bad, wrong, morally wrong, wrongful, immoral, sinful, ungodly, unholy, foul, vile, base, ignoble, dishonourable, corrupt, iniquitous, depraved, degenerate, villainous, nefarious, sinister, vicious, malicious, malevolent, demonic, devilish, diabolic, diabolical, fiendish, dark, black-hearted; monstrous, shocking, despicable, atrocious, heinous, odious, contemptible, horrible, execrable; informallow-down, stinking, dirty, shady, warped, bent, crooked; archaicdastardly, black; rareegregious, flagitious, peccable
    "an evil deed"


    Take your pick.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report Reply

  • william blake, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    I have to differ from your call that it is women who are ultimately responsible for saving children from this fate. It's a male responsibility to stop perpetrating violence and to be wise and brave enough to intervene when abuse is taking place. Arohanui.

    Since Mar 2010 • 380 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to william blake,

    It’s a male responsibility to stop perpetrating violence and to be wise and brave enough to intervene when abuse is taking place.

    Sexual predation/abuse and non-sexual physical violence have different pathologies. It is important to make the distinction. I was referring to the former in my earlier point about women and mothers.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    I will say one more thing. I don’t know that this type of story is a path toward healing for those that need and deserve healing. I’d rather see a book on the life history and profile of the paedophile that was Bert Potter. And such research needs a professional criminologist and a clinician’s involvement. And it needs to not only inform us of the profile of a sexual predator – so that we can better recognise them amongst us – but it also needs to explore why, in particular mothers end up exposing their children to this potential for abuse.

    Shit, there's a lot to unpack there, but I simply can't agree that a psychopathology book about the chief abuser is somehow more valid than one that bears witness to the wider story . They're not interchangeable.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Could we maybe dial down the weird separate-spheres gender essentialism in this thread? Like, dichotomising women into nurturers and men into... not-nurturers... is the sort of approach that limits everyone as complete human beings.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Danielle,

    Instead of nature, perhaps I should have said chemistry.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxytocin

    Powerful stuff, oxytocin.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Danielle,

    Thank you.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

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