Marama Davidson breaks years of silence about sexual assault

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson has spoken out for the first time about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child, saying she didn't tell her family for fear of upsetting them.

Ms Davidson told RadioLIVE on Wednesday morning she was a victim of sexual assault for a year by a relative when she was nine.

"Funnily, as a nine-year-old girl, hate is not the first emotion that comes. It's actually shame, it's actually a sense of self blame," she said.

"I had a stable supportive environment and community. But what overcame all of that was the feeling of shame, and in fact feeling protective of that very family who loved me."

She said she didn't tell her family for fear of disappointing and upsetting them, and it came "from a place of love and admiration".

"As a little girl I connected to the fact that they were going to be upset, and I couldn't bear the feeling of causing them any further upset."

Ms Davidson said she hopes telling her story can stop victims from feeling like sexual abuse is their fault, and help them feel less isolated and alone.

"Sexual abuse survives through people feeling silenced and isolated."

Since speaking out she has been called by relatives who guessed who the perpetrator was, and it's now clear she wasn't the only girl who was sexually abused by this person, she said.

Ms Davidson said many changes are needed to give people confidence to speak out, including giving young children the tools to recognise abuse when it happens to them.

"We have to be very explicit and clear that unwelcome attention of any sort, including touching, is abuse... We also have to ensure that all people know they are not to blame and that people are willing to listen and to help support you to go through this experience."

She said a lot of abusers aren't 'monsters' but ordinary people in our everyday lives, a reason why abuse is so prominent in this country.

"They're your neighbours, your friends, your families, your partner, your uncle."

She said since Wednesday morning her family have been nothing but understanding and supportive, and have given no judgement.