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  • Writer's pictureTE RĀKAU

Breaking the silence that enables abuse

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

26 October 2023


Hear from cast member Angie Meiklejohn about her thoughts on a new digital theatre project by Te Rākau.

 

A woman and a boy sit with their backs to the camera watching a swing in the background
Angie Meiklejohn plays the role of Jen, the mother of a teenager who dies by suicide who is struggling to find forgiveness and understanding for the family member who sexually abused her daughter.

Self defence teacher Angie Meiklejohn is taking to the screen for a digital theatre project she hopes will raise awareness of the impact of adults engaging in sexual relationships with children.


Next month Te Rākau will premiere a digital theatre recording of The Swing by Helen Pearse-Otene, in which Angie plays the mother of a teenager who dies by suicide. Her character, Jen, struggles to find forgiveness and understanding for the family member who sexually abused her daughter.




The play hits close to home for Angie whose mother, herself a victim of childhood sexual abuse, moved Angie and her siblings into Auckland’s Centrepoint Community and was unable to keep them safe.


At the commune, followers of the charismatic and manipulative founder Bert Potter took part in practices promoting spiritual growth, drug use, and ‘sex therapy’, all involving children.

Angie says these experiences help her understand and empathise with Jen, the character she plays in The Swing.


“My mother later took her own life, and on the day she died she told me she was ‘too wounded to heal in this lifetime.’ My experience of finding her body and organising her funeral helps me have compassion for Jen and to understand what she is going through,“ says Angie.


“I have two sons, and three years ago we welcomed a granddaughter into our family. That has given me a sense of what it would be like to raise a girl child, and of how vulnerable and in need of protection they are.”


Scene from The Swing: A tearful Angie looks into the distance
Angie, pictured here on-screen in The Swing, was approached to become a personal safety educator after a documentary was released about her experiences with Auckland's Centrepoint community.

Angie has previously talked about her experiences at Centrepoint in director Costa Botes’ documentary Angie, and more recently in the Stuff’s 12-part documentary podcast The Commune.


Following RNZ coverage of the 2018 documentary, Angie was approached by The Womens’ Self Defence Network - Wāhine Toa, and asked to become a personal safety educator.


Angie says she has enjoyed giving young people the knowledge and skills to keep themselves safe through her work with Wāhine Toa, something she wishes she had when she was young.


“I raise awareness around boundaries, inappropriate touching and the importance of telling someone when things do happen, in order to break the silence that keeps abuse in place,” says Angie.

“If everyone who went to touch someone inappropriately knew they were going to be held accountable for their actions, they wouldn’t do the touching.”


“Joining Te Rākau and playing the role of Jen has helped me to understand - not only my own journey through sexual trauma - but also the journeys of my mother and grandmother.


“My wish for humanity is that adults learn to take responsibility for their desire for pleasure and power, and learn to avoid projecting that desire onto children. It has an irrevocable impact on children’s psyche, and their physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.”


Through her work with Te Rākau, Angie is returning to an early career as a performance artist which includes credits in Too Much Punch for Judy, The Three Sisters, Making it Big and Stickmen.


You can see Angie on screen this November when Te Rākau presents the film premiere of The Swing at Circa Theatre. Book online below.


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