Waatea 5th Estate: Men on Men’s Violence

Waatea 5th Estate

This week I was invited to be part of a panel conversation on the new television current affairs show “Waatea 5th Estate” a joint venture of Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury’s wesbite The Daily Blog and Waatea News.

Waatea 5th Estate screens live weeknights at 7pm on Sky TV 83 “Face TV” as well as streaming live on The Daily Blog and Waatea News.

The other two guests were Domestic Violence Activist Vic Tamati and social worker & community activist James Papali’i.
You can view the episode here:

The Strength to Survive

Strength to Survive

As the law stands currently in New Zealand, victims and perpetrators of child sexual abuse are all automatically granted name suppression as soon as proceedings start.  The rationale for this is to protect the victim, as naming a perpetrator in a family sexual abuse case also “outs” the victim.  But what happens when the person who has been abused wants to be named, and wants their abuser named?

Mark and I discussed this on his Sunday morning show this week, and talked about one brave woman who is challenging this law.  (Click here to listen to the interview)

Last week Candy Eum had her application to waive name suppression granted by the Courts, enabling her to talk publicly about her experiences, and name her abuser as her step-father and Rotorua businessman Brian Hughes.  Mr. Hughes has been convicted and jailed for multiple sex offenses related to the sexual abuse of Ms. Eum.

Shame is one of the core experiences of childhood sexual abuse, and secrecy the outcome, and while many victims would want their identity suppressed, Candy’s argument is that the choice should rest with the victim…

“Ms Eum said she wanted her name made public so she could help other rape survivors.
“Victims should be given the right, from day one when they report, if they want their name suppressed. For victims to actually have to go through the ordeal to report, and then go through the ordeal to have their name unsuppressed – I just don’t think that’s very fair on them.
“The name suppression is designed to protect victims and survivors, so they can report without feeling afraid that they will be identified.
“The problem is, I was never given that option. It was just automatically suppressed.”  (Click here for the whole article)

A big part of the reason Candy wanted to be able to talk publicly is she now is working to help other survivors, via her website “The Strength to Survive” see: www.strengthtosurvive.com

From the website

“My mission is to inspire truth and freedom for victims/survivors of child sexual abuse as well as the supporting family members and friends. This website (The Strength to Survive) is created with the aim to provide a guide for victims and survivors, made by real survivors, to help each other and others discover a life free from the trauma of their abuse.”

And that’s a mission that I would hope we are all willing to support.

Guest Nutcracker

The Nutters Club is comedian, turned Mental Health educator, Mike King’s longstanding radio show now on Newstalk ZB, Sunday nights from 11pm until 1am.  Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to be guest co-host or “Nutcracker”.

We talked with Susan Rogers-Allen about her experiences of domestic violence, the impact on her and the psychology of men who abuse their wives and partners.  To listen to the show (it’s in two parts) click the links below…

The Nutters Club Sunday 1/06/14 – Part 1

The Nutters Club Sunday 1/06/14 – Part 2

Therapeutic trip

LSD Drugs

In just the last month, the first therpeutic drug study of LSD or “lysergic acid diethylamide” since the seventies was completed.  LSD, MDMA (ecstacy) and psilocybin (magic mushrooms) all have powerful effects on the human brain, show little risk for dependence or addiction, and when chemically pure have very few adverse physical effects.  This week Wallace and I talked about the this study and the psychiatric use of these chemicals.  (Click here for audio of the interview)

However, there are some risks, mostly around the potential for psychosis in small number of people, and the risk of accidents while under the effect of the drug.

LSD and ecstasy were both discovered largely accidentally, in the earlier part of the 2oth century and had many studies carried out on their effectiveness in therapeutic settings until the western world, led largely by the USA banned them, and placed them in a category that is reserved for drugs that have “no currently accepted medical use“.  This has meant that it is illegal to even study them therapeutically.  Psilocybin is found in mushrooms and like a number of plant based hallucinogenic chemicals, has a history in traditional healing rites, like those used by shaman in Africa and throughout North America.

Put aside any judgements you might have, all these studies were carried out in controlled, supported environments where people were helped to talk about and express their experience.  Pretty much a four to eight hour therapy session.

In the recent study of LSD it was trialled on: “…12 people with life-threatening diseases (mainly terminal cancer). “The study was a success in the sense that we did not have any noteworthy adverse effects,” Gasser says. “All participants reported a personal benefit from the treatment, and the effects were stable over time.”  (Click here for the whole article)

The studies are small, with psilocybin also showing similar positive effects on death and illness related anxiety in particular and MDMA extremely helpful with past traumatic experiences.  Pre-1970 studies showed MDMA to be an effective adjunct to couples therapy, and LSD was promising in the treatment of alcoholism.

Theories abound of course about why they were mis-clasified, but putting aside all questions about their recreational use, it is becoming absurd to block research that may allow people to have a handful of sessions of (perhaps unhelpfully) dubbed “psychadelic therapy“, and get better results than spending years on legal, trademarked and patented synthetic chemicals.  Or maybe that’s the point…



Clinical points of view on sexual abuse

On Sunday morning Wallace Chapman on Radio Live spent an hour talking with various people about the victims perspective of the recent “Roast Busters” rape cases.

Here’s a link to my chat with him about the psychological effects of sexual violence, and what we can do as a community to stand up and not allow this sort of crime to take place.

Click here for a link to the audio….


Ever since the so called “Roast busters” case broke this week, I’ve had a few men say to me that they feel sickened by the actions of these young men, and wonder what voice do we have as men?  Can we as men talk about Rape Culture?

Of course we can, but more than that we need to.  There have been a number of  intelligent voices online who have talked eloquently and with real passion about how we as a nation need to now acknowledge that New Zealand has a serious problem.  (Click here, here and here for more.)

But sadly the voices that have disturbed me has been the voices of other men.

Whether it’s John Tamihere and Willie Jackson’s bizarre and seemingly in-sightless harassment of a young woman on air, John Key’s off the cuff remark that the Roastbusters need to “grow up”, or the apparent lack of understanding of the psychological effects of rape and abuse shown in the Police’s remarks that the girls attacked have not been “brave enough” to come forward.

As a man, at these moments I feel ashamed and let down by my own gender.

And as understandable as it is, forming a lynch mob and beating the crap out of these young men in retribution for their actions achieves little but a perverse sense of satisfaction.  That’s not how we need to respond as men.

We need to recognize that these young boys who have so horribly lost their way, were surrounded by other boys and men.  It’s too easy to stand by and let the sexist remarks slide, the objectification occur, stand by when a mate “targets” someone who’s been drinking at a party.  It’s just what happens right?

Well to do so is to turn a blind eye to what is rightly labelled “rape culture.”

Sexual violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it happens in a context where the degradation of women and children, the privileging of masculine power and the celebration of sexual conquest takes precedence over human decency and respecting others.

As men we all have a role to play.  As much as it is difficult to talk openly about sex and consent, teaching our sons how to use condoms and what a cross section of a uterus looks like is woefully inadequate preparation for the world of sexuality.

Not only do we as a nation need to thoroughly investigate the actions of the Police, and prosecute these young men to the full extent of the law, we also need to stand up and stop standing by as our friends, brothers, colleagues and team mates behave towards women in ways we feel uncomfortable about.

Mates don’t let mates abuse women and children.

It’s people, people, people

In this weeks chat with Wallace, our last of the series on Resilience (see also: Resilience and Emotional Immune System) we talked about how one of the strongest predictors of peoples ability to cope with stress and trauma across life is the quality of our earliest relationship, that of the attachment to our mother.  (Yeah I know a therapist WOULD say that, but wait there’s science!)  (Click here for audio of the interview)

“Research has shown us again and again that healthy relationships can single-handedly confer resilience to human beings facing stressful and potentially traumatic circumstances. Secure attachments – those relationships where there is a consistent, warm, attuned, and responsive adult – confer the greatest resilience to the developing nervous systems of our kids. Of the children who grow up in the extremes of poverty, abuse, and neglect, the ones who bounce back the best and somehow beat the odds are the ones with at least one person in their life who cares for them and is available on a consistent basis. It seems we are built by design to thrive in attuned and responsive relationships. Love nourishes and buffers our hearts.”  (Click here for the whole article).


Roughly speaking if poeple have had problems in that early relationship then they will tend to either be:

  • Avoidant of attachment and closeness with people
  • Ambivalent about closeness and move between wanting closeness and intimacy, and struggling with it when they do have it
  • Disorganized if their early life was particularly traumatic or difficult, where there is very little ability to use relationships positively at all

And about two thirds of adults are:

  • Securely Attached meaning they’ve had a good enough experience of parenting in their early life that they can use relationships and maintain closeness.  For more about adult attachment styles click here.

The good news is that even if you didn’t have that great a start in life, the human brain is “plastic” that is, it can learn and change based on experience.  And positive, nurturing and compassionate adult relationships can change your attachment style for the better.  Therapy can do that, but so can close friendships or a loving marriage.

The other good news is it doesn’t take a lot of people.  Just one or two close committed and ongoing friendships can make a substantial difference to your ongoing emotional and physical health:

“Studies have shown that middle-aged people who have at least one friend they can turn to when they are upset have better overall health than people without such a friend. Similarly, single people are at a greater risk for depression than married people, and people who withdraw from social contact when they become ill tend to become sicker. Seen in this light, having a supportive group of friends and family is a major asset for maintaining good physical health. If you want to maximize your opportunity to stay in good health, find time for close friendships and work hard to maintain them.” (Click here for the whole article).

So look after your friends.  Especially the good ones.  The ones that listen and take time to hear how you are and support you when you need it.  Make sure you return the favor.  It might just save your life, in the long run.


Christchurch quake continues to extract mental toll

Off the Couch

The following article is from an interview I did on the 24th of April, 2013 with Radio Australia about the ongoing psychological effects of the Christchurch earthquake.

Click here for a link to the audio of the interview

February 2011 – the date of the devastating Christchurch New Zealand earthquake – is etched in the memories of its citizens.

More than 180 people died when the 6.3 magnitude quake hit the Canterbury region.

For many of the survivors, the quake has been the source of continuing psychological trauma.

The New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists says a record 209,000 prescriptions for anti-depressants were written for the residents of the earthquake ravaged city last year.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Kyle MacDonald, New Zealand psychotherapist

Click here for a link to the audio of the interview