Former pupil 'groomed' by dance teacher

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CONTROL: Stayz Raukawa was known as 'the Pied Piper'.

By Mark Dawson

"We were impressionable teenagers and he's giving you this wonderful stage and you get caught up in it."

Rebecca Sloan - known as Bex - is reflecting on her time with a Wanganui dance group, a time that nearly destroyed her life and that has seen her dance tutor in prison for child sex offences.

Stayz Raukawa was sentenced last month to three years and six months in prison for four charges of unlawful sexual connection and eight counts of indecency with a 15-year-old girl, Bex.

This week his name was made public thanks to a courageous stand by Bex to have her own name made public.

"I started with Stayz's dance group when I was 12," says the former Wanganui High School student.

"Dance was my life back then - it was my passion - and he was very charismatic and had complete control."

Now 26 and re-building her life in Auckland where she works in marketing and events, it is only in the past 12 months that Bex has come to understand how she was manipulated 10 years ago.

"I stopped dancing at the beginning of this year. Stayz controls Latin dancing in New Zealand - he's such a strong presence, he's at every event ... you couldn't avoid him. So I just stopped.

"I had eventually worked out just what had happened to me.

"I had been heavily groomed and brainwashed. I didn't understand that it was sexual abuse - in my mind, it was a 'relationship'."

Looking back, she can see how easily she fell into it.

"In a small town like Wanganui there's not a lot for young kids to do, so we got caught up in the glamour of it all.

"Stayz was called 'the Pied Piper' - and people followed the dream.

"Some people described his dance group as 'cult-like'. Of course, back then we said 'No, it's not a cult' but now I think maybe they were right.

"People said he was 'creepy' and things he did were 'inappropriate' - you get that gut feeling about things but back then nobody talked about it."

The abuse started when she was 15, having been preceded by text conversations, firstly about dancing but gradually getting more sexual.

Bex became a leader in the dance group and they started attending festivals around New Zealand. Raukawa would also take his students away, staying in youth hostels and campgrounds.

The first instance of abuse took place in early 2005 at a festival in Gisborne, and it developed into a fully sexual "relationship" at Raukawa's home on Taupo Quay.

"In 2005, he announced his engagement, which was a shock. The 'relationship' carried on after he got engaged but when I was 16 and we were on the trip to LA, I said 'No' for the first time - that pissed him off quite a lot.

"I carried on with the dance group and carried that secret with me. There were times when I really wanted to share it with my best friend, but I told no one till March this year ... I couldn't keep quiet any longer."

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Raukawa - now 43 - admitted the offending and that he knew Bex was only 15, but said he believed it was a consensual relationship.

He was given jail time but allowed to keep his name suppressed - however Bex wanted others to know what he had done.

On Tuesday, Raukawa's name was made public after she decided not to have her name suppressed.

"I fought to have his name suppression lifted, and I made it clear that I would forgo mine so that he could be named.

"I am speaking out because I want him to be accountable.

"It's the people of Wanganui I want to be aware of what he did because he lived there for such a long time and had so much access to children.

"I want to create awareness so that sexual abuse victims in other cases will be prepared to come forward - I want to inspire others to speak out.

"There is not enough conversation about this sort of abuse, and I have been amazed at the number of people who have who told me that something has happened to them."

She says the support from her parents, who still live in Wanganui, has been "amazing".

"It was a massive shock for my parents. They only found out in July when I went to the police.

"I had had a lot longer to process things, but it was a whirlwind for them - they had welcomed Stayz into our home, they had travelled with us to a big dance event in Los Angeles in 2006.

"But they have been incredible, even though it was such a lot for them to take in."

The abuse has left its mark on Bex who says Raukawa "took my youth". She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has trust issues but she believes those problems are slowly easing.

Tuesday, when Raukawa's name was made public, was a good day for her - it was a victory.

"I feel some relief now as though my job is done and I can move on."

She said Raukawa had shown no remorse.

"He's had 12 years to apologise to me but has never done so.

"But when his name is Googled in three years' time, when he is out of prison and might want to start another dance school, people can see what he did and they can be protected.

"What happened to me will not be for nothing."

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1 Comment

Kim

-
06:43 pm Sunday 22 November 2015
You are a very brave person. Thank-you for letting the parents of Wanganui know the truth.

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