Sisters, victims of sexual abuse, ditch name suppression to tell their story

  • 27/11/2016
Celeste and Tiana Smith (The Hui)
Celeste and Tiana Smith (The Hui)

In a rare, bold move two Auckland sisters lifted their right to name suppression so they could speak out about the sexual abuse they endured.

Celeste Smith was tortured for seven years, subjected to a prolonged period of repeated rape and sexual violation at the hands of her step-father.  His offending caused Celeste to have two abortions at the age of 15.

"He was meant to be my step-father, he was meant to be the person who I would go to because I didn't have my dad around at that time, it was really hard for me," Celeste told The Hui.

She didn't know it at the time but she wasn't alone - her younger sister Tiana was also indecently assaulted by Ira Hayes Ricky Manamana, the man who was supposed to protect them.

After living in silence for so long the girls went to police and in a rare move, asked for their name suppression to be lifted.

Normally, victims of sexual abuse and sex-related crimes automatically have their names and identities protected, but the Smith sisters asked permission from a judge to waive name suppression so they could tell their story.

Earlier this month 43-year-old Manamana was sentenced to 16 years in jail, with a minimum non-parole period of eight years for rape, sexual violation and indecent assault of his step-daughters.

"It just felt like the first time we got to speak and it actually meant something.  To actually get up there and be able to fully open up to people that will actually help you make a difference.  It was the end really, the final step and that just felt amazing."

The girls were four-and two-and-a-half years old when their mum met their stepfather and moved into their family home. He manipulated Celeste, turning her against her mother and sister.

In his sentencing, Judge Glubb described Manamana's offending as planned and premeditated, effectively grooming Celeste as his sexual plaything.

The girls' actions have been applauded by those who work with victims of sexual abuse.

Stella Gukibau is director of Tu Wahine Trust, a Maori sexual abuse support group.  In 30 years as a counsellor, she's never known a victim to lift their name suppression.

"I believe that it is a very noble thing that they have done for other women who don't have the courage to come out, who sit in silence.  I'm sure it is very hard to have done what they did," she says.

Celeste and Tiana want to empower others to find their voice and not be ashamed.

"There's only one person to blame and that's the person that's done that to you - no one else," Tiana says.

"I think one of the biggest things that can come from this is having people feel more and more empowered about speaking out.  It's an amazing feeling you get after speaking out, but also the fact the more people do it, the less likely it could happen," Celeste adds.

The Hui