Galleries working with sex abuse victimSave
By Anna Leask
Te Papa and Auckland Art Gallery are working with a child sex abuse victim captured in "totally unacceptable" images by her photographer mother.
Earlier this month the Herald revealed that an art gallery had removed a photograph from an upcoming auction following a complaint by the victim.
The photograph was taken when the victim was 12 years old and shows her completely naked, from the back.
It was shot by her mother, a New Zealand artist.
The victim, now an adult, said the image is one of many naked photographs of her - taken at a time when she was being sexually abused by two men known to her mother.
She has permanent name suppression, meaning the Herald cannot identify her or her mother.
She believed Te Papa and Auckland Art Gallery also had naked images of her in their collections and sought to have them removed.
This week both galleries confirmed action had been taken.
"Once we were made aware of the issues surrounding the image - we made contact with the subject of the photograph and are now working through any concerns directly with her,' said Te Papa spokeswoman Zara Potts.
"It's important to note that the image in question was in storage and not available to the public in any format, nor was it accessible online."
Since speaking out initially the victim learned that the Auckland War Memorial Museum also held an image of her naked which she said they had "withdrawn without question".
And a book that contained one of the images has been "withdrawn pending assessment" by the National Library after she contacted them.
The victim said today that she was still discussing legal options with her lawyer about "the permanent removal of all images or publication".
"But I am hoping the institutions chose to do this voluntarily especially now it is clear about the extent that I was photographed nude . . . prior or while I was being abused or groomed by at least two different men as a child aged 11-12," she said.
She was "very grateful" that the institutions holding the image had understood her concerns and taken her "very seriously".
"They all acted professionally, sympathetically and swiftly," she said.
She had written to each "in detail" about her view on the photographs.
"My view was that is was impossible to access art purely on artistic qualities, the context of these images does matter and that I found these images deeply offensive and contributing to the exploitation of children in the future by normalising nude photography by artistic licence and putting others at risk," she said.
"The information received was sufficient to instigate the withdrawal of the images."
The woman hoped her situation would create awareness among artists and the community about photographing or depicting children.
The response from the galleries and library did not mean they necessarily fully accepted all of the victim's views, she said.
But her point had been strongly received.
"The removal of the images did give me hope," she said.
"Hope that New Zealand was capable of setting limits to freedom of artistic expression when children had been put at risk.
"Hope the cultural climate is receptive to the views of victims."
She has not heard from her mother since she raised the issue.
"I still love my mother but the photography has destroyed our relationship," she said.
"Nothing can remove the past but the elimination of these photos will allow it to be forgotten."
The victim's mother did not want to comment on the issue publicly.