New Zealand Herald
A woman who was raped as a child wants to bring the hidden community of sexual abuse survivors to light.
Photographer Megan Bowers-Vette is calling out for other survivors to share their stories.
Bowers-Vette, 36, will show the photos and stories of 50 people, who say they were sexually abused, in an exhibition titled Us. She's found 30 but needs 20 more.
Photographer and rape survivor Megan Bowers Vette is shooting a touring exhibition ''Us'' which will feature the stories and portraits of 50 other survivors. Photo/Jason Oxenham
Bowers-Vette said around half had pressed charges on their attackers.
"With all the statistics and the people that I know it's obviously a huge number of people that this has happened to.
"But it's such a taboo in society. Because no one talks about it no one knows who each other is.
It's like a hidden community.
"I'm seeking that community to come forward."
Photographer and rape survivor Megan Bowers Vette is shooting a touring exhibition ''Us'' which will feature the stories and portraits of 50 other survivors. Photo / Tracey Stevens
Rape Prevention Education states that about one in five New Zealand women experience a serious sexual assault in their lifetime. For some women, this happens more than once.
For Maori girls and women the likelihood of sexual violence is nearly twice as high as the general population. Pacific and migrant women are also at statistically greater risk of sexual violence.
One in seven boys may be sexually abused by adulthood.
Bowers-Vette has photographed people aged from 18 to 68 including three men and a transgender woman. One of the Whangarei woman's shocking realisations was that a third of those she spoke to said they had met their rapist through Tinder.
One guy connected with who he thought was a cute 18-year-old Caucasian guy on Tinder. After a year of getting to know each other, he travelled to his house. There, he says he was raped by a middle-aged Indian man at knifepoint, Bowers-Vette told the Herald.
"One of them was groomed for a whole year. [The abuser] put a whole year's work into that rape.
"The golden rule is never go to someone's house you've met over Tinder."
Photographer and rape survivor Megan Bowers Vette is shooting a touring exhibition ''Us'' which will feature the stories and portraits of 50 other survivors.
Bowers-Vette says she was sexually abused by a family friend for 10 years, until he moved away. She says she was also raped by a teenager she knew when she was 9. They went for a walk in the forest while at a family gathering.
Some of Bowers-Vette's first memories are of the family friend fondling and kissing her.
"He was the guy that always had lollies and balloon for all the children."
Bowers-Vette had no idea what sex was until much later in life.
She never pressed charges on her alleged abusers as she does not want to dredge up the past.
The effects of sexual abuse crept into every part of Bowers-Vette's life. She struggled with feelings of worthlessness, sped through relationships as she could not trust men and still to this day doesn't enjoy kissing.
When Bowers-Vette was pregnant she was terrified she might have a daughter and that she wouldn't be able to protect her from abusers. She now has an 8-year-old son.
"When I found out he was a boy I was over the moon, because boys have less chance of being abused and in my mind boys have got an easier life."
Bowers-Vette has photographed 16 survivors so far and been impressed with their positivity.
"I thought I'd be meeting fragile people, but all of these people have found their strength. They want a different world for their kids. They have resilience and hope."
Bowers-Vette's exhibition will be shown at the Whangarei Art Museum in September before it tours New Zealand. She is also looking for sponsorship to help cover the $10,000 it will cost her to print and frame the photos.
Contact Megan Bowers-Vette on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help.
Read more by Sarah Harris
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