'Alone in a room with no support': Abuse survivor slams Royal Commission

Warning: This article contains distressing content

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into abuse in state care is under fire, with one survivor claiming she felt so uncomfortable during her testimonial she couldn't share key details.

Speaking to Newshub Nation, Tanya Sammons explained how when she arrived at the motel for her private meeting with the commission, she was forced to wait.

And crucially, she did not have any time with her 'wellbeing' person (support) before she was taken into the meeting.   

"To me, I would have expected my well-being person to come out and greet me. That's one thing I was a little bit concerned about. I was sitting in a room by myself with no support."

Sammons says the lack of support meant she didn't feel comfortable sharing the full details the abuse she suffered in state care.

"I didn't go into too much of the detail because of how I felt. I went through my background, where I came from, a bit about certain things that happened, but I didn't go into full detail because I didn't feel that comfortable at that time."

At two, three and four years old, Sammons and her two sisters were taken into state care where they say they suffered sexual abuse. Sammons says her sister, Alva, later committed suicide as a result of the abuse

When Sammons spoke up about what was happening to her and her sisters, she says she was beaten by her foster mother so badly she couldn't go to school.

She says she was also put off by questions at the meeting about the commission's work.

"They started asking me questions on how to run [the commission], that sort of thing. So I thought, am I here to do your job and teach you or are you just asking me general questions?"

Responding to the survivor's criticism, the inquiry's executive director, Mervin Singham says he understands their frustration, and promised to do better.

"I'm sorry that the experience they feel they had was one that was less than satisfactory. We're on a learning curve."

Singham, however, denies news reports that commissioner, Sir Anand Satyanand, fell asleep during witness testimonials.

"Look, I have to say that our record shows that he did not fall asleep. Having said that, we have to remember Sir Anand is an eminent New Zealander. He was the governor general. He was an ombudsman and a district court judge. All of these roles require careful listening skills."

But journalist Aaron Smale who appeared beside Sammons on Newshub Nation said he had two accounts by survivors of Sir Anand falling asleep. He said the denial was unfair on survivors who had a history of not being believed.

"They've been told they're liars all their life. This is it. From childhood, they've been told, 'No, this didn't happen to you.' And then for the Royal Commission that's supposed to be investigating this to then turn around and say, 'No, we don't believe you."

Singham also pushed back on testimonials being described as 'mock' sessions.

"The accounts they gave us go towards the assessment and information that we'll be assessing for the future. The only part that was different is we asked focus questions about their comfort with the content of the information we gave them."

"We want everyone who comes to us to feel respected, cared for, we want to treat them with compassion.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry is due to make its first report next year.

Newshub Nation.

Watch Newshub Nation 9:30am Saturday/10am Sunday on TV3, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Newshub Nation is supported by NZ On Air.