Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Fringe of Darkness

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  • Hebe,

    What I went through was simply brushing up against the edges of what Anke was living for years. She has shown extraordinary courage in writing not just about what she learned, but about the profound effect it had on her as a human being who was also a journalist. We send writers and journalists into these fraught situations, to come out with the story, and expect them to be unscathed.

    It’s part of an unfolding journey for me.

    A few links re that last paragraph:


    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/18/mental-health-journalism-trauma_n_7305460.html

    http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/community/journalists-ptsd.asp

    http://dartcenter.org/topic/post-traumatic-stress

    http://dartcenter.org/content/ptsd-101#.ViL-p26N-So

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2898 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    I appreciated the depth in this Emma but the concluding sentence felt like a segue into a piece investigating the effects of drug prohibition on those in trauma inducing professions.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald,

    " It’s little wonder the occupation is famed for its drinking."

    Rare quality writing in the Herald...http://www.nzherald.co.nz/canvas-magazine/news/article.cfm?c_id=532&objectid=11529162


    It is impossible to encounter evil unscathed.

    More impossible to encounter this manifestation of evil where the perpetrators and enablers still exist in our world....unscathed.

    Brave Emma. Brave Anke.

    Strength and healing to the damaged children inside the now adult survivors.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Thanks Emma, thanks Anke. Investigating terrible things is vital work, and those who do it deserve all our support and gratitude.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    All of us who read seriously know the feeling of being soiled and shaken after reading real life accounts of awfulness. How much worse to be the person who compiles that account, going over and over the same disturbing sources.

    I hope you, and Anke, are doing ok, and that the work has results for people who need it.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    I know a little of someone's story who was at Centrepoint in its later years. Not twelve, but not very much older.

    I hope their stories will be told, and thank you to you and Anke, for trying to make them heard.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    This – a more expanded document of the interview with Emile Bruneau on National Radio.

    Their pain gives us pleasure: How intergroup dynamics shape empathic failures and counter-empathic responses

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4414 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    I was introduced to Anke by David Haywood, whom I seem to remember quietly slinking off as the conversation took in sex work, pornography, and possibly female ejaculation.

    Ahem... I prefer the term "fading into the background" rather than "slinking off" (sounds slightly more dignified somehow).

    For the record, it was just the first two topics that I find terribly depressing to discuss. The third is just fine, and indeed I have a good friend who used to work in the field of female ejaculation (and so I may even have been able to constructively contribute to the conversation!).

    I read an early draft of Anke's article and, I'm afraid, had to skip large sections. It was very well written & researched, but far too upsetting for me.

    It's an important piece of work that should be widely promulgated -- but to people less easily upset by that sort of thing than I am (I can't even watch 'mild' fictional violence on TV).

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Anke Richter,

    Emma, thank you so much for your moving piece - and for your empathy and understanding. I know of the strong reactions you had after having to listen to hours and hours of my interviews. You were probably the only person at the time who "got" what I was dealing with, who had the same insight into the minds of my interviewees, their contradictions, dramas, denial, stories. The female senior therapist you mention sums up the whole conundrum and adds to the complexity of my story or of what I was trying to bring across. Reading your comment makes me grieve the book it could have been. Maybe we should have written it together? I'm serious.

    Lyttelton • Since May 2007 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to David Haywood,

    The third is just fine, and indeed I have a good friend who used to work in the field of female ejaculation

    Some of my best friends, etc...

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Anke Richter, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    Thank you, Stephen. Yes, there have been some pretty strong responses. Two of them resulted in letters to North&South, and I have had a visit from a woman who is finally confronting her family about the abuse that happened to her at CP. I wouldn't be surprised if more lids come off now that the story is online.I am still not sure if it leads to what the Germans call "Vergangenheitsbewältigung" (coming to terms with the past) - as any mentioning of the dark side of CP means that everyone who was there feels tarnished again. Many people who had a happy upbringing at the community have been deeply scarred by the association with CP and not being able to talk about it in any positive terms. Or seeing their parents' names mentioned as sex offenders - having to live with that shame, feeling guilty by association. That was one of my moral dilemmas: How to tell the truth and not hurt people all over again?

    Lyttelton • Since May 2007 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Anke Richter,

    “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” (coming to terms with the past) –

    We use that expression...but what does it really mean?


    FWIW...media reports at the time of the shitstorm constantly referred to the "charismatic" leader. This word always has negative connotations for me now.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • Anke Richter, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    Rosemany – what it means is that you have to “go there”, as much as it hurts or confronts or shocks you, instead of sweeping the past under the carpet and let it rot there until it becomes toxic waste. It also means, in the case of those who were there and not directly guilty of any offences but bystanders, to look at the part they played and face their own guilt. That would help the victims immensely, more than seeing more people prosecuted. I find that there’s real flip side to the Kiwi mentality of not wanting to dig to deep in the dirt, of keeping it light and pleasant and nice, and the notion of “just get on with it”. There are lots of festering wounds still in the CP field and families where this subject has become such a taboo, but is crippling people in various ways two decades later. Those secrets are so damaging.

    Lyttelton • Since May 2007 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Oh, Anke, I was just glad to be able to help. And of course that was the hardest thing - that it wasn't about EVIL. It was about ordinary, complex, contradictory human beings, and what it was about the environment they were in that enabled them - or indeed pushed them - to do terrible things. Nobody was unscathed.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I had some contact with the fringes of the Centrepoint scene when I lived at The Big House in Parnell in 1983.

    It’s hard to credit now how accepted and acceptable Centrepoint was within a wider hippyish community. It had a proximity in perhaps the way the Mr Asia scene did a few years before.

    The house itself was not at all a Centrepoint place when I was there – more earnest lefties and lesbian feminists and people like me who’d just wound up there – but had naturally attracted people interested in communal living. Those people had largely moved on before I got there, including a really nice group who’d bought a house together in Ponsonby for themselves and their kids. Not everyone who believed in communal living believed in Centrepoint.

    I had a sexual relationship (and subsequent friendship) with another resident, a perpetual seeker who spoke enthusiastically about having taken a Centrepoint sexuality course – lots of people in a big room fucking and cheering each other on. It didn’t sound like my thing at all, but she told me about an oral sex technique called the “Centrepoint raspberrry” which seemed to be well-known.

    I’ve often wondered about what she saw at the commune, whether she might have been so enthused with open sexual freedom that she didn’t see things.

    The dynamics of The Big House could change quite rapidly and I gather that the year after I left, links with Centrepoint increased, to the point that Bert Potter was invited there to speak one night. A riot nearly broke out when he suggested that women who were raped bore responsibility.

    Shortly afterwards, the culture of the house lurched again and it filled up with punks, junkies and artists.

    Since then, I’ve a couple of times been in situations where it was mentioned that someone else in the room had grown up at Centrepoint. No one said anything until the conversation moved on.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Russell Brown,

    but she told me about an oral sex technique called the “Centrepoint raspberrry” which seemed to be well-known.

    This came up in the interviews, and I have to say, I am curious.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Emma Hart,

    This came up in the interviews, and I have to say, I am curious.

    Forming an embrochure with the lips and blowing a raspberry on the clitoris. It seemed funny and enjoyable then, creeps me out a bit now, for obvious reasons.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It’s hard to credit now how accepted and acceptable Centrepoint was within a wider hippyish community.

    Yes. I knew lovely people who were peripherally involved with Centrepoint. What we might now call alternative lifestylers.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Anke Richter,

    Emma and Russell: They called this technique “blowing off” at Centrepoint, and it’s still passed on through the men’s movement in NZ where there are some ties to pro-CP guys. CP did indeed bring a lot of sexual freedom to many people who needed it, especially back in those days, and all their therapy has helped many. But then again, emphasizing this is – at least to me – like saying “But Hitler built the Autobahn and the crime rate in Nazi Germany was really low”. The analogy with the 3rd Reich came up for me many times: guilt, denial, redemption – “innocent bystanders” or enablers of evil? And where would I have found myself on that spectrum?

    Lyttelton • Since May 2007 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Anke Richter,

    what it means is that you have to “go there”, as much as it hurts or confronts or shocks you, instead of sweeping the past under the carpet and let it rot there until it becomes toxic waste.

    My query was kind of rhetorical. Some years ago I was offered a place in a Child Protection course. I was doing famously filling out the form until the section..."we prefer that those who have experienced abuse and who have not come to terms with that abuse do not enroll for this course. This is not a venue for therapy." I was forced to really think hard about the expression.
    As you point out..'coming to terms with' very likely involves acknowledgment of guilt from the perpetrators and enablers...if this is not forthcoming, where does that leave the victim?
    Sometimes, many times, 'learning to live with it' is the best one can hope for.

    I find that there’s real flip side to the Kiwi mentality of not wanting to dig to deep in the dirt, of keeping it light and pleasant and nice, and the notion of “just get on with it”.

    Yep.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Anke Richter,

    Anke, and Emma: my response was not in any way intended to sweep aside the Centrepoint story and your reaction to it. I admire both of you for your fortitude at persevering with such a traumatic subject.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2898 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Hebe,

    Anke, and Emma: my response was not in any way intended to sweep aside the Centrepoint story and your reaction to it. I admire both of you for your fortitude at persevering with such a traumatic subject.

    I don't think it read that way. I've covered the work of the Dart Centre in the past and it immediately struck me as relevant to the passage you quoted from Emma.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    what it means is that you have to “go there”, as much as it hurts or confronts or shocks you, instead of sweeping the past under the carpet and let it rot there until it becomes toxic waste.

    Anke, Emma -

    Perhaps I should emphasise the flipside a little. Quite importantly those who are prepared to "go there" and take on such burdens and obstructions on behalf of others bring great hope that the future will be better. That matters.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Anke, You say in the Metro article:

    While I’m overseas, the former actress who once went public about her time at Centrepoint learns I’ve seen her court files and goes into attack mode. She threatens legal action against me and alarms my publisher in Sydney. They get cold feet and decide not to extend my deadline. This latest obstacle seems insurmountable. But it’s a blessing in disguise.

    This is kind of disturbing. Are you talking about one of the former children here?

    If so, why would they need to threaten legal action, to prevent his/her story being told by you?

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4414 posts Report Reply

  • Anke Richter, in reply to steven crawford,

    Yes, she was one of the victims. But she was protective about her story, even though she sought publicity about it in the 90s. Some perpetrators – like John Potter – were cooperating with me and pleasant in their dealings, some victims – like the former actress – tried to stop me. Just one example how confusing it all became, how it’s not all black-and-white. Some victims and whistle blowers feel that they have paid a high price for their actions of going public or lying charges and do not want to relive any of that again. That was one of the dilemmas and the opposition I faced.

    Lyttelton • Since May 2007 • 24 posts Report Reply

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