Police investigating sexual assault allegations made against Wellington musicians

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 20 Oct 2020, 5:49PM
(Photo / File)
(Photo / File)

Police investigating sexual assault allegations made against Wellington musicians

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 20 Oct 2020, 5:49PM

Police are investigating after at least 60 people made claims on social media about being sexually assaulted by a group of Wellington musicians, with several people coming forward with complaints.

Claims include people being drugged, raped, harassed, and otherwise abused by the group over the years.

At a media briefing this afternoon, Detective Inspector John van den Heuvel would not say how many people had laid complaints against the musicians.

He could not say if complaints had been made against the men in the past.

"It's quite possible a complaint has been made without individual suspects being identified," van den Heuvel said.

"Let's move this investigation from social media. Bring it to police, bring it to the support services that can actually help and we'll go from there."

He said he was not in a position to comment on what risks people faced after making social media posts naming the men, but encouraged people not to make any further posts naming them.

There were about 12 detectives working on the case at the moment.

"We're assessing that as we speak to determine if the need is there to grow it further."

The investigation started yesterday and police were in the "gathering phase", van den Heuvel said.

"It's very, very early days."

He would not confirm how many people the complaints related to, or whether he had spoken to the accused.

Van den Heuvel wanted to reassure complainants police would treat them with sensitivity.

"Any report of sexual assault is obviously very concerning to all police officers and to the community," he said.

"We're very grateful that this has been brought to our attention. It's come by and large via social media and it's now time to encourage people to bring their complaints to us."

He said social media was "the here and now" and did not think it was uncommon for sexual assault complaints to be made on social media before being brought to police.

"I do expect more people to come forward and tell us their story," he said.

However it was "too early" to say whether charges would be laid.

Police will gather the complaints, look to conduct "other enquiries", analyse the gathered information, and make decisions based on "what's in front of us" over the next few days.

The majority of the alleged offending had taken place in the Wellington region.

Victim advocate Louise Nicholas shared a statement from some of the complainants.

She said they were asking others to come forward and speak to police, and know they were "extremely safe to do so".

Earlier today, a spokeswoman said "police are aware of the allegations and are making inquiries".

"Anyone who has information that may assist is asked to contact police directly via 105.

"Police would urge people not to name names or post personal details on social media, and instead give any relevant detail to police so we can make appropriate inquiries."

Wellington city councillor Tamatha Paul has been helping complainants come together and seek help.

She said the people she was working with would be meeting with the police sexual assault team, and that Louise Nicholas was also involved.

Paul told NZME she first became aware of the allegations over the weekend.

"It kind of unfolded that there are a few people who are quite prominent in the Wellington music scene ... there's a whole bunch of people coming forward with allegations against these individuals," she said.

Since first seeing the posts online, there had been "an outpour" of people sharing their experiences, which were "really horrifying and really harrowing".

"It seems like this has been going on for a long time."

Paul's focus was making sure complainants were protected while coming forward to "speak their truth".

"I can't stress enough how important it is for people to report."

Anyone wanting to report could use the police 105 line, or contact local sexual abuse help groups such as Mosaic and Wellington Sexual Abuse Help, she said.

Numerous people have shared stories of being drugged so that they blacked out, and others describing being asleep and waking up to find one of the musicians assaulting them.

Some said the incidents happened during house parties, and others said they or their friends were assaulted in nightclubs or while they were out on the street.

One Instagram user who has been compiling the complaints earlier said she'd received at least 100 testimonies of sexual assault, harassment, and violence.

A fellow Wellington musician said there was a power dynamic in the industry which allowed well-known people to "cover up" incidents.

"It's because of their status that they think they have the right to take advantage of women, and they think they can take advantage of women," she told the Herald.

She did not comment on the specific allegations against the men in question.

A former manager for the group told the Herald he no longer works with the group "due to a situation involving 'similar' allegations".

Police put out a statement this afternoon saying they had received a "small number of complaints" which were being investigated.

"While we understand the concerns of the community in regard to this matter we ask people to refrain from using social media to name individuals or post personal details as this could impact on the police investigation," the statement said.

"We know that coming forward to report a sexual assault can be incredibly difficult, however we want to reassure the Wellington community that we treat these reports extremely seriously.

"Anyone who has information that may assist our ongoing inquiries is asked to contact Wellington Police directly on 105 and reference Operation Emerald.

"We will treat it with sensitivity and investigate thoroughly."

Spokeswoman for Wellington music venue Meow, Rahine O'Reilly, said the allegations on social media "make me feel ill".

She was hesitant to comment on the situation, but said some of the accused members of the group had been on the music scene for some time and were "a long way off being prominent".

Where to get help:

  • If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
    • If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline Safe to Talkon: 0800 044 334 or text 4334. (available 24/7)
    • Male Survivors Aotearoaoffers a range of confidential support at centres across New Zealand - find your closest one here.
    • Mosaic - Tiaki Tangata: 0800 94 22 94 (available 11am - 8pm)
    • If you have been abused, remember it's not your fault.
    • Wellington HELP has a 24/7 helpline for people who need to speak to someone immediately. You can call 04 801 6655 and push 0 at the menu.

text by Katie Harris and Melissa Nightingale, NZ Herald