One in four girls and one in six boys in New Zealand are sexually abused before the age of 15.

The statistics are staggering in a country known for being ‘a great place to raise kids’.

As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern notes her desire to make New Zealand ‘the best place to be a child’, former Auckland cop-turned-entrepreneur Akerei Maresala-Thomson is doing his part to initiate change by helping to launch a training course in partnership with the Stop the Silence group, on child sexual abuse prevention and mitigation.

Maresala-Thomson CEO of Trust MYRIVR, a leading social services app in New Zealand, recalls his own haunting experiences of sexual abuse as a child.

He looks back on the days of not wanting to go home from school as a young boy for fear he would have to face his perpetrator.

Sadly, what he remembers even more was that when he reached out for help, he was silenced. 

“I spent most of my adolescent and teenage years walking around as a ticking time bomb, a murderer or suicide statistic,” he tells media. 

 

Trust MyRivr CEO and abuse survivor Akerei Maresala-Thomson Pic: WhiteRibbon

 

As a Samoan, Maresala-Thomson knows all too well, the cultural aspects when dealing with sexual abuse trauma – like the discussions of sexual abuse being one of taboo and shame.

Akerei hopes that by spreading awareness and education, that it will encourage victims to speak up, and to encourage others to listen and take action.

“Child sexual abuse is real. If kids approach you and tell you they are being abused, never turn them away. Help them out,” he says.

The 3-day training program which is the first of it’s kind in New Zealand is aimed specifically at policymakers, stakeholders and other important figures in the community to help ensure a sustainable and a relentless approach to mitigating child abuse.

His story as a sexual abuse survivor-turned-cop and now entrepreneur is one of hope and inspiration – that one’s dark past does not have to define their future. 

Success story: Maresala-Thomson and his business partner Elia Chan (middle), Pioneers of My Rivr app and winners of Samoa Business Network Award 2018 for Best Innovation

His ingenuity in helping to create New Zealand’s largest in-app directory of community services has helped over 20,000 users and provides access to over 7,000 health and social services.

The child abuse mitigation project is funded by a U.S Based organisation who saw the value in the My RIVR app innovation. The funding also means several key guest speakers from New Zealand and the U.S will feature in the training program. 

Pacific politicians and other notable figures are also expected to be in attendance.

To register your interest in the training course on 26, 27 and 28th of November, please contact Akerei Maresala-Thomson on [email protected] / 0272551278 by the COB This Thursday 16th November 2018

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