The Warehouse Masterton staff — Selina Griggs, left, Jamal Mason, Sherilee Murray and Debbie Marino – donating $1000 of clothing to Michelle Ihaka, third from left, and Jill Henderson from the Wairarapa Rape and Sexual Abuse Collective. PHOTO/ELISA VORSTER
Social worker Michelle Ihaka was delighted to receive a $1000 donation which she hopes will help combat the apathy she has been battling for 16 years.
Ihaka runs the Wairarapa rape and sexual abuse collective in Masterton which provides a 24-hour free and confidential victim support service.
The service has been running since the 80s but sometimes struggled to get funding and awareness – a result of being connected to a subject that people tended to avoid talking about.
“We’re constantly trying to change that,” she said.
The centre helped 77 victims of rape and sexual abuse across Wairarapa last year, with the first port of call being Ihaka’s listening ear.
“It’s a confidential and safe place to start the healing process.
“Sometimes they’re not ready for counselling.”
Ihaka said not all victims chose to go to the police, but she happily accompanied those who did.
“The right way to deal with it is how that survivor chooses, as long as it’s healthy.”
Part of the police process could include a medical examination where the victim’s clothing is kept for evidence.
“Sometimes they can’t get access to a change of clothing,” Ihaka said.
Luckily, the centre’s administrator Jill Henderson had been relentlessly seeking funding and contacted The Warehouse Masterton which agreed to donate $1000 worth of clothing.
The donation meant over 30 clothing packages – including items such as underwear, tops, pants and jandals – would be available to the centre’s victims.
“We have a huge appreciation for The Warehouse for doing that,” Ihaka said.
The Warehouse Masterton supervisor Sherilee Murray said the store regularly donated money which was generated from its plastic bag sales.
“We want to support the community and local charities with things that make a difference.”
Ihaka hoped that securing support from a prominent retailer such as The Warehouse would help raise awareness around rape and sexual abuse and eliminate stigmas of guilt and shame.
“It’s here, it’s in Wairarapa but it’s never spoken about,” she said.
“People need to talk about it and we need to start with our kids.
“It’s not about stranger danger but knowing your surroundings and how to keep yourself safe.”
People seeking the service can call 0800 614 614 any time of day or night and will be connected directly to phone volunteers at the centre.