Real blokes do cry

One in eight Kiwi boys are sexually abused before they are 16, but in Godzone boys and ‘real men’ don’t cry — so they find it difficult to talk. Ken Clearwater was abused: a smart, happy boy transformed into an aggressive and violent man who spent more than 30 years finding support. Ken is now an international advocate for the rights of survivors. Michael Neilson talks to Ken about his work and how Kiwis can support these brave men.

One in eight Kiwi boys are sexually abused before they are 16, but in Godzone boys and ‘real men’ don’t cry — so they find it difficult to talk. Ken Clearwater was abused: a smart, happy boy transformed into an aggressive and violent man who spent more than 30 years finding support. Ken is now an international advocate for the rights of survivors. Michael Neilson talks to Ken about his work and how Kiwis can support these brave men.

A ‘real man’: Ken Clearwater is a former Canterbury champion amateur boxer, shown here taking on Peter Warren in the final of the 1980 South Island Goldn Gloves at the Richmond Workingmen’s Club in Christchurch.
SUPPORTING MALE SURVIVORS: Ken Clearwater (right) is manager of the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust. Ken, a survivor himself, advocates for the rights of male survivors and to challenge the societal stigma around men being victims. Tim Marshall of Tauawhi Mens Centre invited Ken to Gisborne to speak at the centre and the A Call To Men hui at Patutahi’s Pakowhai Marae last weekend. Picture by Liam Clayton

KEN Clearwater was a champion amateur boxer in Canterbury, who drank beer, chased women, and got into fights out of the ring. Once he even took on a substantial part of Christchurch’s police force.

He earned good money at the freezing works, and had a wife and two daughters.

Ken was determined to prove he was a ‘real man’. But the violence escalated.

In separate incidents Ken almost killed two police officers, was fired for knocking out his boss and threatened to kill a man over a game of pool.

Ken was not a ‘real man’ after all, rather a scared little boy.

In 1965, when Ken was 12 years old, he was raped by an older male. A man he viewed as a mentor had groomed, sexually violated and raped him over a period of time. Six months later he was sexually violated by an older female.

In neither case did he fully comprehend what had happened to him. The previously happy, bright and intelligent young boy became scared, disengaged and violent.

He was ashamed of what happened to him, and determined to prove he was a ‘real man’.

It took Ken decades of violence, drugs and alcohol to get to the bottom of it. Many times he sought help, but was sent away.

It was 32 years before he came across the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust (MSSAT), founded by Ian Bennett in 1997, and found the support he needed.

“There was previously nothing for men. All the support groups and agencies were for women,” Ken said during a speech at Gisborne’s Tauawhi Men’s Centre.

“People struggled to believe males could be victims of sexual violence. Even today in the media we hear ‘36-year-old female teacher has sexual relationship with 13-year-old boy’.

“But if it was the other way around, it would be seen as sexually violating.

“Feelings of shame, guilt and our patriarchal society, where males are supposed to be tough and staunch, prevent men coming forward.”

Now Ken is manager of the trust, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last month, and a national and international advocate for male survivors of sexual abuse.

Fighting for justice

Each day he puts his boxing boots and gloves back on and enters the ring, fighting for justice and support.

One in eight New Zealand boys will be abused before their 16th birthday, although Ken believes it could be as high as one in four. In the United States and Australia it is one in six.

Tauawhi Men’s Centre co-ordinator Tim Marshall invited Ken to speak at the centre and attend the A Call To Men hui at Patutahi’s Pakowhai Marae last weekend.

“Sexual abuse on men is a bigger issue than we realise,” Tim said.

While the centre focuses on current behaviours, we are aware that this has context and some men disclose previous abuse during their support sessions.

“There are a lot of pressures around men asking for help in general, let alone about being survivors of sexual abuse.”

MSSAT runs regular sessions where men can share their stories, emotions and feelings without being judged.

They offer counselling services, legal assistance and advocacy, and have set up trusts in Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Otago, and a peer support group in Nelson.

MSSAT supported survivors who came forward in 2002 about sexual abuse at St John of God’s Maryland School in Christchurch, much of which occurred in the 1970s.

This followed an investigation by The Boston Globe into abuses by Catholic Church priests in Boston that had been covered up — depicted in the film Spotlight — and sparked similar investigations all over the world. A subsequent investigation found 80 percent of those abused by the Catholic Church in the US were boys.

Ken has worked with more than 2000 survivors since joining the trust.

“But there are thousands out there who have not come forward, and may never,” Ken said.

Stigma

The enormous stigma about men being abused prevents many from coming forward.

“Men can’t be victims,” Ken said. “If we are a victim we are not a real man. I lived a lie my whole life, but I was not going to share it because I did not fit the model of being tough and staunch.”

There are also labels attached to survivors.

“Because I was sexually violated as a boy I am also seen as a paedophile and a sex offender,” Ken said. “It is bloody hard to move forward and get help if we can’t share who we are.

“Men tell each other if we cry we are ‘gay’ or a ‘poofter’, but where does that leave gay men?

“That really irks me. We work with a lot of gay and trans men and they deserve the same rights as anybody.

“Being gay is not being weak. Standing up and saying that you are gay in this society is bloody strong.”

Not addressing the abuse has long-term implications. A US study of inmates on death row from 2000 to 2015 found they were 13 times more likely than the general public to have been sexually abused as a child.

“Many of those who were abused end up in prison and mental health systems,” Ken said.

Many struggle with violence, drugs and relationships. Many end up dead.

Those who do seek support have often suppressed the abuse and covered it up with other issues. It can be triggered, and support groups and agencies need to be equipped.

“Often the men are told their groups cannot deal with sexual abuse,” Ken said.

“They need to stop that, and instead listen, thank them and assist them in finding somebody who can help.”

A lot of the men did not have family support.

“They were put into our dysfunctional care system, boys’ homes and Catholic orphanages. Other men were told they were liars. If those men had been looked after in the first place they may not have grown up to hate society.”

Ken could easily have ended up in jail himself.

Loving family

He came from a loving family, the middle child of seven, with a mum and a dad. He was happy, enjoyed reading and writing, until he was raped.

“I stopped learning, and started to be very aggressive, dangerous.”

He was hypervigilant, and had to be around others. His mother picked up on his behaviour change and convinced the police to look into it. The man who raped him confessed and was sentenced on two charges of indecent assault.

“To see ‘indecent assault’ certainly did not put into perspective what I experienced at that time of my life,” Ken said. “I was raped.”

Six months later Ken went to a friend’s house after school. His friend’s aunty called him into the sunroom. She told him to take off his clothes.

“She made me do things to her I could not even comprehend at that time.”

He was unable to get an erection, and she laughed at him.“‘You are not even a real man.”

“That was true, I was not a man, I was a frightened, 12-year old boy, who at that time just wanted to be at home with his mother.”

Those incidents shamed him and he set out to prove he was a ‘real man’.

“At the time it was the guy getting into chicks, getting in fights every Friday night at the pub. That was a real man.”

At 14 Ken was expelled from Papanui High School for assaulting a teacher. He did not care. He was out in the workforce, on his way to become a ‘real man’.

Attacked by police

One night in 1981 he was attacked by a police officer outside a Christchurch nightclub. “I went into my place of rage, survival, to prove I was a real man, and beat the living s**t out of him. I thought he was dead, but didn't care.”

He then attacked another officer who was beating up a drunk man on the pavement.

It took half Christchurch’s police force to take Ken down. He was discharged without conviction but didn't care.

“I would have achieved what people thought I was going to achieve, ended up in jail.”

Similar instances happened time and again.

After he threatened to kill a man over a game of pool he concluded he was a danger to himself and others, and needed to take his own life.

“But in that moment contemplating suicide I heard a knock on my door — my girls needed to be taken to school. I looked at them and realised I had something to live for.”

Turned away

The first clinic he went to turned him away.

“They said to me, ‘You have neither killed yourself nor anybody else, we cannot help you’.”

Finally he found a psychologist to talk to, only about his anger issues, but it was the first time he linked his anger with the abuse.

One day Ken noticed in the paper a community notice for a meeting of male victims of childhood sexual abuse, which would go on to become MSSAT. In that group Ken found the support he needed. He has been involved ever since.

He spends a lot of his time advocating for male survivors to receive the same rights as women.

Change in policy

In 1998 they were seeking ACC funding for counselling for a boy who was sexually violated by his female babysitter. ACC refused him funding as males sexually assaulted by females were not covered by the act. They convinced ACC to change its policy.

More recently they requested a draft Government family and sexual violence framework be changed to include all victims, rather than only women.

“If we are continually putting men to one side it will not change anything.”

Last year Ken presented this topic in a TED Talk in Queenstown titled “Sexual abuse and violence is a human rights issue not a gender issue”.

“It is time we were treated a human beings and afforded the same rights,” said Ken.

Since 2004 the trust has been advocating for an inquiry into abuse suffered in state care.

“I think we have made about 120 requests,” Ken said. “The Government thinks it can just give compensation, but that is not good enough for the people who were abused.

“A lot were never taught properly about many areas of life, including looking after themselves, and face a whole lot of issues. For some the pathetic compensation just adds to the problem.

“The Government should put in place systems of support — for accommodation, health and education — if people want it,” he said.

Ken’s work has seen him travel around the world to present at workshops and conferences.

He spoke at a United Nations workshop in New York in 2013 nd is one of the founding members of South-South Institute on Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys.

In Uganda he met a group of 30 men who were raped as young boys by soldiers during conflict. In war, rape is used as a tactic to lower the status of other men — many complained to police, only to be incarcerated for homosexuality and to later be raped by guards too.

The men set up a peer support network to help other survivors.

In New Zealand there are similar issues that are not talked about.

“Some male New Zealand soldiers in WW1 were raped in Turkey, but you will not hear that on Anzac Day.

“Those soldiers came back, were given a bottle of beer and cigarettes. Many, with post-traumatic stress disorder, carried their violence into their families.

“We have failed, and are failing, men. The biggest thing is educating around what it is to be a ‘real man’.

“You can play rugby, and have feelings too.”

KEN Clearwater was a champion amateur boxer in Canterbury, who drank beer, chased women, and got into fights out of the ring. Once he even took on a substantial part of Christchurch’s police force.

He earned good money at the freezing works, and had a wife and two daughters.

Ken was determined to prove he was a ‘real man’. But the violence escalated.

In separate incidents Ken almost killed two police officers, was fired for knocking out his boss and threatened to kill a man over a game of pool.

Ken was not a ‘real man’ after all, rather a scared little boy.

In 1965, when Ken was 12 years old, he was raped by an older male. A man he viewed as a mentor had groomed, sexually violated and raped him over a period of time. Six months later he was sexually violated by an older female.

In neither case did he fully comprehend what had happened to him. The previously happy, bright and intelligent young boy became scared, disengaged and violent.

He was ashamed of what happened to him, and determined to prove he was a ‘real man’.

It took Ken decades of violence, drugs and alcohol to get to the bottom of it. Many times he sought help, but was sent away.

It was 32 years before he came across the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust (MSSAT), founded by Ian Bennett in 1997, and found the support he needed.

“There was previously nothing for men. All the support groups and agencies were for women,” Ken said during a speech at Gisborne’s Tauawhi Men’s Centre.

“People struggled to believe males could be victims of sexual violence. Even today in the media we hear ‘36-year-old female teacher has sexual relationship with 13-year-old boy’.

“But if it was the other way around, it would be seen as sexually violating.

“Feelings of shame, guilt and our patriarchal society, where males are supposed to be tough and staunch, prevent men coming forward.”

Now Ken is manager of the trust, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last month, and a national and international advocate for male survivors of sexual abuse.

Fighting for justice

Each day he puts his boxing boots and gloves back on and enters the ring, fighting for justice and support.

One in eight New Zealand boys will be abused before their 16th birthday, although Ken believes it could be as high as one in four. In the United States and Australia it is one in six.

Tauawhi Men’s Centre co-ordinator Tim Marshall invited Ken to speak at the centre and attend the A Call To Men hui at Patutahi’s Pakowhai Marae last weekend.

“Sexual abuse on men is a bigger issue than we realise,” Tim said.

While the centre focuses on current behaviours, we are aware that this has context and some men disclose previous abuse during their support sessions.

“There are a lot of pressures around men asking for help in general, let alone about being survivors of sexual abuse.”

MSSAT runs regular sessions where men can share their stories, emotions and feelings without being judged.

They offer counselling services, legal assistance and advocacy, and have set up trusts in Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Otago, and a peer support group in Nelson.

MSSAT supported survivors who came forward in 2002 about sexual abuse at St John of God’s Maryland School in Christchurch, much of which occurred in the 1970s.

This followed an investigation by The Boston Globe into abuses by Catholic Church priests in Boston that had been covered up — depicted in the film Spotlight — and sparked similar investigations all over the world. A subsequent investigation found 80 percent of those abused by the Catholic Church in the US were boys.

Ken has worked with more than 2000 survivors since joining the trust.

“But there are thousands out there who have not come forward, and may never,” Ken said.

Stigma

The enormous stigma about men being abused prevents many from coming forward.

“Men can’t be victims,” Ken said. “If we are a victim we are not a real man. I lived a lie my whole life, but I was not going to share it because I did not fit the model of being tough and staunch.”

There are also labels attached to survivors.

“Because I was sexually violated as a boy I am also seen as a paedophile and a sex offender,” Ken said. “It is bloody hard to move forward and get help if we can’t share who we are.

“Men tell each other if we cry we are ‘gay’ or a ‘poofter’, but where does that leave gay men?

“That really irks me. We work with a lot of gay and trans men and they deserve the same rights as anybody.

“Being gay is not being weak. Standing up and saying that you are gay in this society is bloody strong.”

Not addressing the abuse has long-term implications. A US study of inmates on death row from 2000 to 2015 found they were 13 times more likely than the general public to have been sexually abused as a child.

“Many of those who were abused end up in prison and mental health systems,” Ken said.

Many struggle with violence, drugs and relationships. Many end up dead.

Those who do seek support have often suppressed the abuse and covered it up with other issues. It can be triggered, and support groups and agencies need to be equipped.

“Often the men are told their groups cannot deal with sexual abuse,” Ken said.

“They need to stop that, and instead listen, thank them and assist them in finding somebody who can help.”

A lot of the men did not have family support.

“They were put into our dysfunctional care system, boys’ homes and Catholic orphanages. Other men were told they were liars. If those men had been looked after in the first place they may not have grown up to hate society.”

Ken could easily have ended up in jail himself.

Loving family

He came from a loving family, the middle child of seven, with a mum and a dad. He was happy, enjoyed reading and writing, until he was raped.

“I stopped learning, and started to be very aggressive, dangerous.”

He was hypervigilant, and had to be around others. His mother picked up on his behaviour change and convinced the police to look into it. The man who raped him confessed and was sentenced on two charges of indecent assault.

“To see ‘indecent assault’ certainly did not put into perspective what I experienced at that time of my life,” Ken said. “I was raped.”

Six months later Ken went to a friend’s house after school. His friend’s aunty called him into the sunroom. She told him to take off his clothes.

“She made me do things to her I could not even comprehend at that time.”

He was unable to get an erection, and she laughed at him.“‘You are not even a real man.”

“That was true, I was not a man, I was a frightened, 12-year old boy, who at that time just wanted to be at home with his mother.”

Those incidents shamed him and he set out to prove he was a ‘real man’.

“At the time it was the guy getting into chicks, getting in fights every Friday night at the pub. That was a real man.”

At 14 Ken was expelled from Papanui High School for assaulting a teacher. He did not care. He was out in the workforce, on his way to become a ‘real man’.

Attacked by police

One night in 1981 he was attacked by a police officer outside a Christchurch nightclub. “I went into my place of rage, survival, to prove I was a real man, and beat the living s**t out of him. I thought he was dead, but didn't care.”

He then attacked another officer who was beating up a drunk man on the pavement.

It took half Christchurch’s police force to take Ken down. He was discharged without conviction but didn't care.

“I would have achieved what people thought I was going to achieve, ended up in jail.”

Similar instances happened time and again.

After he threatened to kill a man over a game of pool he concluded he was a danger to himself and others, and needed to take his own life.

“But in that moment contemplating suicide I heard a knock on my door — my girls needed to be taken to school. I looked at them and realised I had something to live for.”

Turned away

The first clinic he went to turned him away.

“They said to me, ‘You have neither killed yourself nor anybody else, we cannot help you’.”

Finally he found a psychologist to talk to, only about his anger issues, but it was the first time he linked his anger with the abuse.

One day Ken noticed in the paper a community notice for a meeting of male victims of childhood sexual abuse, which would go on to become MSSAT. In that group Ken found the support he needed. He has been involved ever since.

He spends a lot of his time advocating for male survivors to receive the same rights as women.

Change in policy

In 1998 they were seeking ACC funding for counselling for a boy who was sexually violated by his female babysitter. ACC refused him funding as males sexually assaulted by females were not covered by the act. They convinced ACC to change its policy.

More recently they requested a draft Government family and sexual violence framework be changed to include all victims, rather than only women.

“If we are continually putting men to one side it will not change anything.”

Last year Ken presented this topic in a TED Talk in Queenstown titled “Sexual abuse and violence is a human rights issue not a gender issue”.

“It is time we were treated a human beings and afforded the same rights,” said Ken.

Since 2004 the trust has been advocating for an inquiry into abuse suffered in state care.

“I think we have made about 120 requests,” Ken said. “The Government thinks it can just give compensation, but that is not good enough for the people who were abused.

“A lot were never taught properly about many areas of life, including looking after themselves, and face a whole lot of issues. For some the pathetic compensation just adds to the problem.

“The Government should put in place systems of support — for accommodation, health and education — if people want it,” he said.

Ken’s work has seen him travel around the world to present at workshops and conferences.

He spoke at a United Nations workshop in New York in 2013 nd is one of the founding members of South-South Institute on Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys.

In Uganda he met a group of 30 men who were raped as young boys by soldiers during conflict. In war, rape is used as a tactic to lower the status of other men — many complained to police, only to be incarcerated for homosexuality and to later be raped by guards too.

The men set up a peer support network to help other survivors.

In New Zealand there are similar issues that are not talked about.

“Some male New Zealand soldiers in WW1 were raped in Turkey, but you will not hear that on Anzac Day.

“Those soldiers came back, were given a bottle of beer and cigarettes. Many, with post-traumatic stress disorder, carried their violence into their families.

“We have failed, and are failing, men. The biggest thing is educating around what it is to be a ‘real man’.

“You can play rugby, and have feelings too.”

Where to get help

Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust: website; email

For information about ACC-funded counselling and support visit findsupport.co.nz

Tauawhi Men’s Centre, ph (06) 868 8278, tauawhi@psec.org.nz, 71 Peel St, Gisborne.

Lifeline, 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else), 0508-828-865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Youthline, 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email

Depression Helpline (8am to 12midnight), 0800 111 757

Healthline, 0800 611 116

Samaritans, 0800 726 666

Your doctor

Police, 111

Child Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), phone (06) 869 0541 during office hours

Tairawhiti Psychiatric Assessment Triage Team 24/7, (06) 867 2435 or 0800 243 500

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