Victim of Shortland Street actor Lee Rene Naufahu 'abused and betrayed'

Author
Sam Hurley, NZ Herald,
Section
Crime,
Publish Date
Saturday, 2 September 2017, 11:19AM
Former Shortland Street actor Rene Naufahu changed his plea in the Auckland District Court yesterday. (Photo: Nick Reed)
Former Shortland Street actor Rene Naufahu changed his plea in the Auckland District Court yesterday. (Photo: Nick Reed)

A victim of well-known New Zealand actor Lee Rene Naufahu says she was subjected to a "gross abuse of power" and will no longer let the television star consume "any more of my mental space".

Naufahu, 47, changed his plea to admit six indecent assault charges before Judge Evangelos Thomas in Auckland District Court yesterday. The Crown dropped 13 other charges against Naufahu.

The former Shortland Street star had initially denied the charges and was due to go to trial next week.

The court heard that Naufahu told the victims that they were "very talented actors and wanted to develop their talents".

The offending took place between 2011 to 2013 in Naufahu's Auckland acting classes.

The victim, who spoke to the Herald yesterday after the actor changed his plea, said Naufahu left her "vulnerable to his gross abuse of power and ongoing [indecent] assault".

"He would repeatedly tell me I was receiving special treatment and coaching as someone he had selected with significant acting talent," she said.

The court heard that Naufahu would perform "let me in, let me out" and "push me, pull me" exercises with the actresses in an effort to "express their emotions".

The victim told the Herald Naufahu first assaulted her during one of these exercises.

"He used his 'pull' motion to kiss me on the mouth, after which I pushed him away and asked him what he was doing.

"The response was that this was a common acting coaching technique used to build confidence and help students in 'the real world of acting'."

Yesterday, the court heard that during one of the classes, Naufahu's "kissing became more passionate and the touching became more invasive".

The victim said Naufahu said she "was a huge acting talent and was going to 'go places'".

Naufahu called her the next "NZ Charlize Theron", she said.

She said Naufahu's long-term "abuse and betrayal" has had a significant and lasting impression on her life.

"It takes a long time to accept yourself as a victim of abuse, and even longer to process the mental and emotional impacts on areas that you would never really imagine before going through something like this."

Judge Thomas said Naufahu "caused an enormous amount of harm to six very vulnerable women".

He said it wasn't the extent of touching but the extent of a breach of trust.

The victim said she didn't have a message for Naufau, "aside to say that I chose not to allow him any more of my mental space or time moving forward from today".

"I do have a message for other victims of sexual assault or abuse who are out there and feeling confused or don't know what to do. Ask for help. Reach out to anyone you can trust, and go the right people for assistance."

She thanked police for their help and care in the case.

Naufahu​ will be sentenced in November.

"I accept now that I made errors and crossed boundaries that should not have been crossed," he said in a statement yesterday.

"I am pleased this case has resolved as this period in my life has been very hard for me and my family. There has been a lot to confront and resolve. We have done that. I am sure it has also been hard for those students who became involved on both sides.

"I hope that by acknowledging the accepted inappropriate conduct, this now stops and everyone can move on."

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