Dilworth School abuse survivors send warning shot

Survivors of sexual abuse at Auckland’s Dilworth School are warning school representatives against releasing any details relating to redress, saying it should be a survivor-led process.

Neil Harding, sexual abuse survivor and representative of the class action against the school, said a letter had been sent to the Dilworth Trust Board which stated releasing details of a redress scheme without obtaining “meaningful feedback” from survivors could re-traumatise them.

“Sexual abuse is not a game. Despite spending months asking the Dilworth Trust Board and the school to consider our comments in good faith and develop a survivor-focused scheme, they have failed to engage on critical points,” Harding said.

“Instead, the trust board and school, who have actively covered up the abuse for years, are paying lip-service to consultation.

“By designing their own defective scheme without our full input, they are putting their own needs ahead of the survivors’. It’s appalling and designed to re-traumatise and disempower survivors of sexual abuse.”

It is understood the legal team representing Dilworth School reportedly sent a redress scheme to the legal team representing members of the class action, along with a letter which allegedly said the scheme was not to be shared with survivors.

In a previous statement to media on this issue, Dilworth Trust Board chairman Aaron Snodgrass said the redress programme would be launched in the first half of next year.

“Currently we are engaging with the legal counsel for the Human Rights Commission claimants and lawyers for other claimants,” he said.

“Once this stage has reached a point where it is appropriate to do so, we will be consulting with as many survivors and Old Boys as we can to get their views and input.

“It will be shared with Old Boys once it has been finalised.”

A later statement from Snodgrass said: “The Dilworth Trust Board has been actively consulting with the lawyers for Mr Harding on the proposed redress programme”.

Harding said it was critical Dilworth provided survivors an opportunity to give their view on what constituted “proper redress”.

“We have told Dilworth that we will be obtaining this feedback, along with that of experts, and will share this with them so that a best-practice redress programme which is based on honesty and transparency can be developed.

“Dilworth have said they remain committed to confronting this with their community. If they are genuine in that commitment, the basis for any scheme must involve the school fully admitting that they knew about the ongoing abuse and disclosing the role they played in suppressing it for decades and allowing it to continue.”

Last month, Harding told the Herald the school had told its alumni about the redress scheme without apologising or telling survivors first.

Also in that article, Harding said any redress action should be completely independent from the school – with those who suffered the most serious harm entitled to around $500,000 in financial compensation.

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