The last 10 years of my life has seen me on a never ending merry-go-round.
— Lou Hutchinson

Lou's story

When I finally found the courage to ask for help as an adult woman to address childhood sexual abuse I never fathomed I would find myself victimised by the NZ mental health system, ACC, and the Ministry of Social Development. The ensuing 10 year journey would be one that would re-traumatise and victimise me further.

I thought I was doing the right and brave thing confronting the trauma that I had never acknowledged in my life, I thought I was walking into a stage in my life where my hope would be restored and I would be provided with the skills to regain control over my life. What I discovered was a journey into never ending diagnoses, medications, symptoms, behaviours and treatment approaches which never addressed what the root cause was in my life, trauma.  

At the request of my doctor, I was sent to a psychiatrist.  The symptoms of my "breakdown" where discussed and my inability to sleep, never was I questioned about my history of sexual assault.  I was place on a common antidepressant and sent on my way.  Adult psychiatry does not inquire into, see signs of or understand sexual trauma.  

The last 10 years of my life has seen me on a never ending merry-go-round.  How much has it cost New Zealand for ACC to decline to fund specialist sexual abuse counselling, counselling recommended by an ACC psychologist in 2007.  To be pushed from pillar to post, treated as someone who had some sort of "brain disease", not as someone who was profoundly hurt and traumatised by defining incidents in my childhood.  

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I had suppressed for over 30 years the devastating effects the abuse had had upon my personal wellbeing and identity as a woman and human being.  I had tried the whole forgive and forget, tried minimise and deny, but I had never come to terms with the impact the abuse had had on my life.  It wasn't until I heard another women share her story of historic sexual abuse as a child, that a switch went off inside of me, I felt as if she was telling my story.  She helped me realise that others suffer similar abuses like me.  That moment kick started a the journey of healing, her story helped me to acknowledge my story, I gained instant self esteem an confidence, I felt truly empowered for one of the first times in my life.


Until mental health services in NZ gets its head around the impact of trauma on people's lives and its failed approach to simply medicating people as the cheapest option, NZ society's struggle will never be addressed.  The current mental health system including ACC and the Ministry of Social Development do nothing to address wellbeing in NZ society, their services are being run on a neoliberal agenda in Western society that relies on reduced state responsibility for social well-being, privatising public assets, such as hospitals and treatment facilities and corporatising human services. Healing people doesn't come from a pill out of a bottle, it comes from deep individual healing work, dealing to unique individual trauma and intergenerational trauma.  Healing comes from being in a protected environment which nurtures and provides the means and opportunities to thrive and flourish and lead lives of wholeness, experiencing true happiness and joy with those treasured around you.  

#Iamnotanumber #orapilloutofabottle #dontreducemetothat

Lou Hutchinson

Lou is a volunteer at ActionStation and also assisted with the research analysis for the report.