Grant West, right and supporter Pete Chapman are collecting signatures calling for a Royal Commission into institutional ...
MARTIN DE RUYTER, Nelson Mail
Grant West, right and supporter Pete Chapman are collecting signatures calling for a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
Grant West knows first hand the destruction that results from being a victim of sexual abuse.
The New Zealand born man is travelling through the country to gather signatures for a petition, calling for a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child abuse.
He grew up in Wellington, was sexually abused by a family member and spent time in and out of institutions, mental homes and then prison.
West set up on Trafalgar St, Nelson on Thursday and Friday, talking to passers by about his life while gathering support and signatures.
He said that survivors of abuse were the ones who could create change.
Royal Commissions are established under the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1908, and are able to inquire into any matter of major public importance of concern to the Government.
West was one of many who campaigned to get a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in Australia. It was launched in 2013 to investigate how institutions like schools, churches, sports clubs and government organisations have responded to allegations of child sexual abuse.
He has returned to New Zealand because he wants to see changes to the system in his home country.
"We are asking for all institutions who care for children to have mandatory reporting of sexual abuse cases," he said. "This is about changing the way we deal with children."
West started gathering signatures last week in Dunedin. He now has over 900 and is aiming to get at least 60,000.
He said the ultimate goal was to create an "all round support" system.
"We are asking for more social workers in school and to educate children at a young age about their bodies, about who can touch them and what is appropriate and what is not," he said.
It was important that support extended out into the community.
"It is not just the child that gets abused it is the parents that have to deal with it and it is the fallout from the community."
West now lives on a farm in Ballarat, near Melbourne with his wife where he works as a swimming coach.
He is dedicated to achieving change within the system so that others don't have to go through what he did.
As an adult, he had made several suicide attempts and still has weekly sessions with a counsellor.
"It's a daily struggle," he said. "It is a journey where you have to learn to deal with your future and your past and combine them together."
Sexual abuse victims and survivors were encouraged to join West on September 15 at 1.15pm outside Parliament when the petition would be presented. People are asked to bring a colourful ribbon with them to tie to the fence in support of sexual abuse victims.