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Clients abused during sexual health checks

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News staff - 30th April 2014

Silipa Take
A former counsellor indecently assaulted ten clients under the guise of sexual health checks while working at the New Zealand AIDS Foundation’s Awhina Centre in Wellington.

Silipa Take has this morning been sentenced to ten months' home detention, 250 hours community work and ordered to pay $6,500 reparations. It comes just over a month after he admitted the charges.

Judge Peter Hobbs told the Wellington District Court during sentencing he was most concerned about the breach of trust represented by the offending.

He said the indecent assaults occurred under the guise of sexual health checks.

Take was authorised to take fingertip blood drop tests for HIV but engaged in other examinations of the ten clients which included feeling the groin area with both hands, manipulating the testicles and touching the penis.

On five occasions he peeled back the victims' foreskins. On one occasion he touched a victim’s anus and reached between his legs to touch his testicles.

“The position of trust gave you the opportunity to offend and because your victims were presenting for HIV checks they were already vulnerable,” Judge Hobbs said.

Crown prosecutor Geraldine Kelly expressed concern that Take didn't plead guilty until some way into the investigation. She asked for a term of imprisonment to reflect the range and amount of offending which occurred between 1 May and 9 September 2009.

The judge could have given Take up to seven years in jail, but began at a starting point of two and half years' jail, which was reduced to ten months' home detention due to mitigating factors, including credit for an eventual guilty plea.

Judge Hobbs described some of the victims as having ongoing emotional difficulties, but says others have no lingering ill-effects.

The judge said the decision whether to give a sentence of imprisonment or home detention was finely balanced. He said that a sexual offending programme would be inappropriate, as there are no programmes for this type of offending. Take has already sought counselling in relation to the offending. He has also been ordered to undertake psychological assessment and any recommended treatment.

While his probation officer believed Take was “minimising” his offending, Judge Hobbs said Take has acknowledged his actions mean his training and work for 15 years is over and his qualifications are gone.

The judge also revealed that a serious charge had been withdrawn "due to issues of proof."

The defence described a reported statement made by Take in a probation service report that he didn't believe that what he did was wrong and would want to return to counselling as "bizarre". His lawyer said "nothing could be further from the truth."

Take’s lawyer said the offending was “inexplicable” to her client and that he acknowledges he crossed a line and hates himself for it.

His lawyer says Take was going through a stressful time when the abuse happened, due to a family member being diagnosed with cancer. There was also restructuring going on in the NZAF and he feared he would lose half his job. However, his lawyer said Take acknowledges that this was not really an excuse and realises his actions were inconsistent with his "lifetime of devotion to the gay community."

NZAF is supporting victims

The New Zealand AIDS Foundation’s current Executive Director, Shaun Robinson, has previously apologised on behalf of the NZAF for not immediately following up with Take's other clients. It says the Foundation has continued to offer support and counselling to those affected, and has strengthened the code of ethical conduct and professional requirements of its counsellors to ensure all of its clients are safe.


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