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Abuse of Trust: Pt 2 - The assaults

Sun 4 May 2014 In: True Stories View at Wayback View at NDHA

See Abuse of Trust: Pt 1 - The trap Silipa Take What happened behind the closed doors of a series of sexual health counselling and HIV testing sessions sounds, at first reading, like the shabby plot of a lacklustre porn movie. But this was real life and some, maybe most, of the men indecently assaulted in 2009 didn't even know that it was happening. Vulnerable, nervous, ignorant of what should and should not be happening to them, reassured by the relaxed clinical setting, they were the unwitting victims of counsellor Silipa Take's cynical and calculated sexual abuse. While some walked away unaware of how they had been abused, others caught on and left hurt, bewildered or upset. It's important to remember that Take was neither trained nor authorised to do any kind of visual or manual inspection for the symptoms of any sexually transmitted diseases. In the context of a verbal counselling session he could take a droplet of fingertip blood for an HIV fast test and that was the limit of the physical client contact he was allowed to undertake. Any suggestion of a sexually transmitted infection should have led Take to refer the client to a registered nurse, who was part of the NZAF's sexual health service, or to the client's doctor or a specialised Sexual Health Service. But when a man we'll call Victim One turned up at the Awhina Centre for an HIV fast test, requiring only the minimal contact required to draw a droplet of fingertip blood, Take "asked to see his testicles and penis." This victim "thought this was general practice for the counsellors," according to the Police Summary of Facts and charges to which Take subsequently pleaded guilty. "He complied by opening his fly and pulling out his penis and testicles." For no medical purpose at all Take, without using the protective latex gloves standard for any contact between medic and patient, groped the man's testicles for approximately twenty seconds before pulling back his foreskin. Take blithely told him "all was ok" so the victim "zipped his pants up and after a brief chat about condoms" left the premises. For some of the men Take assaulted things would go much further. Victim Four was asked to remove his trousers and underwear and to stand in front of Take who sat in a chair. For no legitimate medical or counselling purpose Take "proceeded to roll the man's penis around, examining it before looking at his testicles." Take then "masturbated [Victim Four] for a couple of minutes" under the guise of "checking for discharge." He "leaned into the victim and put his mouth or nose onto the end of [the man's] penis." In this more extreme situation the victim felt things were not right and noticed Take was "not able to complete sentences and was losing his train of thought." He stood back, pulled up his pants and sat down to await the HIV blood droplet test result. Page after page of the official Summary of Facts detail a range of similar assaults against ten unsuspecting men. Victim Seven had had unsafe sex three days before his session with Take. After his HIV fast test Take told him it was too early for any symptoms to show, which is basically true. However, Take then said he could "provide a full sexual examination for any STDs the victim may have." After getting the man to "drop his pants" he "examined the victim's genitals for approximately 30 seconds" then "told him to turn around [and] examined [his] anus before reaching around from behind and grabbing his testicles in one hand." Take's other hand went between the victim's legs and the man got an erection. Moments later the sitting Take was masturbating him and the encounter turned into a blow job. At face value it may sound as though Victim Seven was eventually amenable to the sexual contact but the point is that it should not have ever happened between counsellor and client, and certainly not under those circumstances or in that place. It is also clear that Take lured him in under false pretenses and the victim was suddenly in a compromised situation with no time to think things through and make a rational decision about how to react. He was compromised at levels he does not appear to have appreciated at the time. By contrast, Take, with his years of training which specifically included a thorough understanding of what is appropriate and what is illegal between a counsellor and a client, knew just how far he was crossing the line. Yet he continued to do so, with this man and with others. Perhaps Victim Seven should have just said "no!" Victim Nine did, but it didn't work against the determined and persuasive Take. The man had arrived for an HIV test which should have involved discussion around HIV, testing and safe sexual practices followed by a prick on the finger and a brief wait for the test result to emerge followed by post-test counselling based on the result. Take told Victim Nine that he should check the man's testicles and penis. "The victim initially said no, he would get his doctor to, but the defendant stated 'no, no I insist, it will save you money of [sic] getting tested by your doctor.'" Like all the other men he eventually "dropped his pants and underwear exposing his genitals" and Take spent five minutes groping him under the guise of a medical examination. Victim Two was similarly groped while thinking it was part of standard check-up procedure but on a subsequent visit over a year later for a repeat check he was seen by a different counsellor who of course did not perform any of the physical manipulations and "fondling" Take had undertaken with him. He started to realise something had been amiss. It's not even known for sure how many men Take sexually assaulted. Some victims may not have felt brave enough to admit to any investigation what had happened, to face police questioning and a possible court appearance detailing what went on behind that closed door. And it's not known which, if any, of the ten victims whose experiences underlie the thirteen charges Take eventually pleaded guilty to eventually fronted up to the AIDS Foundation with his concerns. But one man decided to act. He was hesitant, perhaps nervous about the repercussions, but he bravely fronted up and told his story to the NZAF. What happened next was, to the minds of most whom has spoken to about this case, including several who had been involved at high levels in the NZAF in the past, deeply troubling. In part three, next Saturday, we take you through the follow-up, or lack of it, which left some of Silipa Take's victims unidentified and alone with what the sentencing judge termed "ongoing emotional difficulties."     Jay Bennie - 4th May 2014

Credit: Jay Bennie

First published: Sunday, 4th May 2014 - 9:19am

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