Warning: This post contains explicit details about sexual abuse and may be upsetting to some people.
A few months ago I shared my experience of sexual harassment and why I understand how difficult it is for victims to speak out.
The revelation came after entertainer Rolf Harris was convicted of multiple indecent assault charges against young girls, most of whom only felt safe speaking out years after the assault took place.
I was heartened and humbled by the support that rolled in from friends, family, former colleagues and even strangers. However one person's message, in particular, has stuck with me.
It was from a girl I went to high school with. We were friendly towards each other but we weren't exactly friends who hung out at the weekend or visited each others' houses.
At school she was a fairly timid, but lovely girl. She didn't have trouble making friends and she loved sport. This showed through her achievements in soccer, cricket, netball and squash.
What I didn't know was that she was a victim of sexual assault.
I felt sick to my stomach after she messaged me knowing that while I partied with friends or played silly buggers in class, she had been raped and was dealing with years of sexual abuse.
Just like the boys in the New Zealand Roast Busters case, who police have decided not to prosecute due to lack of evidence, her abusers have never been held accountable.
Just like the 25 girls who declined to make a formal complaint, she never went to police -- a decision she regrets.
Now she wants people to know what she went through in a bid to encourage and urge other survivors to speak up.
To protect her identity, I have chosen to call her Mindy.
When Mindy was a little girl, she had always admired her older brother. He was the only male in her life that she felt absolutely safe to be around. He would protect her from anyone or anything that tried to harm her. And then one day, when she was 8 years old, her world came crashing down in an instant. Her brother sexually abused her.
Feeling confused, broken and distraught, she told the one person who should've believed her -- her mum. Instead, Mindy was told to stop being silly and stop making up stories. Mindy believes her mum was trying to keep shame and negative attention away from the family.
When she was 11 years old, her brother apologized and admitted he may have done it because he had been sexually abused by their uncle.
"I said I forgave him, shyly smiled and gave him an awkward hug," Mindy says.
"Although I wanted so much to really forgive my brother, I just couldn't get rid of the recurring nightmares and flashbacks that had been brought back to life that made me so reserved and scared of older guys.
"Ever since that moment, I have been struggling with anxiety and depression every day of my life."
Sadly the sexual torment didn't stop there for Mindy. At aged 15, her male friend (or so she thought), drugged her. As the drugs kicked in, she was stuck in a paralytic state while the "friend" raped her and encouraged his mate to join in.
"I wanted to tell someone about it, but because of my mum's reaction to my brother, I told no-one. At that point I was hysterical, feeling so alone and frustrated that I was the victim but made to feel like a criminal talking about it."
Mindy was fed-up with having to keep silent. She felt like she was going to explode with mixed emotions so right before the end of year exams, she reluctantly confided in a teacher.
A meeting was set up between Child, Youth and Family, and her mum who said she still didn't believe her and threatened to send her to a mental institution if she ever "made up stories again." Oddly, Mindy was given the choice to see a male school counsellor. Her progress at school had severely declined and she failed most of her exams.
"I then told my closest mates and became a bit slutty as I just figured that I might as well give what the guys want so they won't have to abuse me."
Ten years later, while living in Australia, it happened again. Mindy woke to a friend of a friend forcing himself on her.
"His body weight was on me and his hand was around my throat while the other hand was between my legs. I managed to fight him off for an exhausting, frightening and the longest four hours of my life.
"At one point I thought to myself 'why don't I just give in and it'll all be over in 5 minutes' but then the other part of me didn't want to be a victim again."
Mindy says her dad, who was a severe alcoholic, finally believed her story earlier this year when he found a poem she had written about her brother. He was devastated, but to her surprise, he was very supportive.
Despite being silenced for so many years, Mindy finally reached out for help to friends, professionals and even strangers on the internet. Since then, her mental health and overall well-being has improved and she is now "chasing my dreams."
However, the release of the Roast Busters report yesterday caused Mindy's anger and frustration to boil over.
"The guys get to boast about their actions and get away scot free while the girls get a life-time sentence. It affects all areas of their life, their self-confidence, trust, relationships, self-worth, dignity and more often than not, it puts them on the path to self-destruction."
During Operation Clover, the investigation into the Roast Busters case, 25 girls declined to make formal statements but were believed to have been victims of sexual offending.
Acting Deputy Commissioner Grant Nicholls said all sexual offending in New Zealand was "grossly under-reported."
"I am committed to ensuring that victims of all ages have trust in police and they can be assured their complaint will be thoroughly and professionally investigated," he says.
I understand it is not through the fault of the police that there wasn't enough evidence. But how can victims have confidence in the system when a prosecution couldn't even been made against the Roast Buster boys? Is it likely that victims will want to go through an emotional, traumatic police investigation when they could be told "sorry not enough evidence."
Then there are people who scoff at stories like Mindy's and disregard victims' cries for help, which makes it even harder for them to speak out.
One in three girls in New Zealand will be exposed to an unwanted sexual experience by the age of 16. One in five women in New Zealand will be subjected to sexual assault as an adult. However, only 9 per cent of incidents of sexual violence are reported to police. And of the cases that do make it to court, only 13 percent will result in a conviction.
These statistics are disturbing and New Zealand needs to change its attitude towards sexual abuse. No matter how big or small the abuse is, it's wrong and victims need to feel supported in speaking up as well as getting the justice they deserve.
If you, or someone you know, has been a victim of sexual abuse and wants to speak to someone, please contact a sexual support centre near you.