Our Rebrand to RespectEd Aotearoa

Kia ora koutou katoa,

The work of our organisation has grown significantly in recent years, as we’ve strengthened and diversified the training and support that we offer. To reflect this development, I’m pleased to share with you today that we are changing our name from Sexual Abuse Prevention Network to RespectEd Aotearoa.

Over the last 18 months, we’ve talked to many of you – our clients, partners, funders and friends – and with your encouragement, we sought out a name that would accurately represent the positive change we have facilitated in your organisations and communities.

We believe RespectEd Aotearoa does that. It reflects the work we do to support social and behavioural change, to build respectful relationships and positive cultures, to work towards our vision of Aotearoa free from sexual harm. 

Thank you to all of you who have supported us on this journey. We look forward to continuing to serve our communities under our new name, RespectEd Aotearoa.

Education needed to reduce impact of pornography on young people

Sexual Abuse Prevention Network says the release of the Office of Film and Literature Classification’s research on New Zealand young people and pornography is an opportunity to look at how New Zealand is educating and talking to young people about pornography as well as broader education about healthy sexuality.

Sexual Abuse Prevention Network General Manager Fiona McNamara says “While the data presented is concerning, we can reduce the impact of pornography on young people and society more broadly by refocusing how we have conversations around consent, healthy relationships and positive intimate relationships with our young people.”

“The response that is needed is to ensure that comprehensive sexuality education is available to all young people in Aotearoa.”

“Alongside education for young people, there needs to be education for adults who have young people in their lives – this includes parents, teachers and community workers. Adults need to be equipped with the skills to talk to young people about pornography and how to view it critically.”

The research shows that young people think pornography is too easy to access and that it is influencing their sexual behaviour in harmful ways.

McNamara says “Young people themselves have said they need better education to support critical thinking around sex and sexuality rather than allowing pornography to be their main source of sexuality education. It is imperative that this need is met.”

“There need to be alternative positive narratives about sex and sexuality that are even more available to young people than pornography. Young people need to learn about consent, healthy relationships and positive intimate relationships so that there are clear better alternatives to the false constructed narratives in pornography.”

The Office of Film and Literature Classification’s survey of over 2000 New Zealand teens aged 14-17 year olds for the major research project NZ Youth and Porn: Research findings of a survey on how and why young New Zealanders view online pornography revealed that over two thirds of 14 to 17 year olds have been exposed to porn.

For more information or interviews contact Fiona McNamara, fiona@sexualabuseprevention.org.nz or 027 568 8639

The full NZ Youth and Porn report can be downloaded here.

The value of specialist services collaborating with schools

This week, ACC has announced an $18.4 million investment to roll out its Mates and Dates programme across New Zealand secondary schools. The programme, which has been run in some schools since 2014, is delivered by specialist providers, based externally from the school. Trained educators facilitate five one hour sessions across five weeks, in each year level of high school, totalling 25 hours for each student by the end of Year 13. The announcement of further investment has sparked criticism about why the programme is facilitated by outside providers and not by teachers. Sexual Abuse Prevention Network (SAPN) specialises in delivering consent and sexual violence prevention education programmes to young people in and out of schools and is currently the Wellington, Porirua and Kāpiti provider of Mates and Dates. As General Manager at SAPN, I’d like to share the perspective of my agency on the value of engaging outside providers to do this crucial work, and how collaboration between schools and specialists in sexual harm prevention ensures the best sharing of knowledge, skills, and educational outcomes for students.

Sexual violence is a global problem and an issue that affects all of us, with New Zealand having the highest rate of sexual violence among OECD countries. Sexual violence is too big an issue to be solved in five, or even 25 lessons. Effective culture change requires a sustained long-term approach, which addresses the problem in multiple ways, including the reinforcement of positive messages across our lifetimes.

The relationship between external providers and schools goes far beyond five lessons in each year group, and the collaboration and different expertise of those involved is a strength of this model. Health teachers have a huge amount to offer with their skills as trained teachers, their knowledge of a broad range of health topics and their relationship with students. They play an important role in supporting the programme, including working with the educators to plan programme delivery, reinforcing the messages in the classroom, and providing follow up support to students if questions or disclosures arise after completion of the programme. Our work in schools has included training staff on receiving disclosures of sexual abuse, educating parents and guardians about having difficult conversations with their young people, referring students to specialist support, providing advice and support in response to incidents, co-delivery of consent education with teachers and supporting student-led initiatives – such as events, journalism and art projects.

There is a strong body of evidence that recommends that this education is undertaken by specialist educators, external to the school. The evidence includes international academic research but most importantly, it is what current New Zealand secondary school students have asked for.

When ACC was developing the Mates and Dates programme they surveyed secondary school students. The results showed that the students wanted outside providers to deliver the programme, and for their teachers to be there in the room supporting it. That is the model that is used across the country for Mates and Dates, and it is the model we use at Sexual Abuse Prevention Network for our own ‘Who are You?’ programme.

This work is happening in a society in which rape culture is rife, where harmful attitudes towards sex, sexuality and gender are pervasive and where harmful behaviours, including abuse of power is commonplace. Most people don’t do sexual harm and most agree that it’s wrong in its more extreme occurrences. However insidious behaviors are, by their nature, hard to identify – particularly for the person they are directed at. To communicate the nuances of sexual harm is challenging and requires educators experienced in articulating the complexity of the topic, and who stand strong against mainstream attitudes and beliefs to promote a perspective that is often new or at odds with that of those in the room. Specialist educators are trained to facilitate conversations with groups that may comprise of people who have never spoken openly about sex, sexuality or abuse before, people who are hostile towards the content, people who have experienced sexual harm firsthand and people who have done sexual harm. Often the educators will need to manage a room with all these different perspectives at once and guide the group towards a consensus that promotes respect and consent.

Providing effective sexual violence prevention education requires educators to have an in-depth understanding of the dynamics of sexual abuse, and an ability to communicate these clearly. They need to be trained to receive disclosures of sexual abuse and to know how to refer these on to appropriate support. When our educators receive a disclosure of abuse, our organisation works closely with the school to ensure that student is getting the support they need and to minimise the risk of further harm to the student or anyone else and to consider the needs of the person who did the harm.

Consent education is something that current secondary school students feel strongly about. In 2017, Wellington students marched to Parliament to demand compulsory consent education in all schools. Additionally, a Wellington student started a petition through Action Station, which called for the Mates and Dates programme to be made compulsory in all schools in New Zealand. The petition was signed by 6000 people. This year, Hamilton Girls High School students have launched a campaign to ask the government for compulsory consent education in high schools.

It is fantastic that ACC has responded to these calls from young people by moving towards making a comprehensive programme that focuses on respectful relationships and consent available to all young people in schools. Along with listening to their calls for consent education, we also need to listen to the way in which they are asking for this education to be delivered. The education is, after all, about safety and respect.

This is the unabridged version of an opinion piece published on radionz.co.nz on the 9th August 2018.

Changing ‘work hard, play hard’ culture not enough

“What is needed is specific recommendations for how to change those particular behaviours and attitudes that lead to sexual harm. To transform a culture rife with sexual harm, we need to address those underlying and related issues, but we also need to challenge the harmful behaviours themselves.”

Fiona McNamara wrote an opinion piece on Dame Margaret Bazley’s review of Russell McVeagh for Radio New Zealand on 6 July 2018. Read the full article here.

Sexual Abuse Prevention Network supports Wellington City Council’s move to give new Councillor focus on sexual violence

Media release for immediate release 7 February 2018

Sexual Abuse Prevention Network supports Wellington City Council’s move to give new Councillor focus on sexual violence

A spokesperson for Sexual Abuse Prevention Network says it is excellent to see that Wellington City Council has given a focus to sexual violence within the safer cities portfolio.

General Manager, Fiona McNamara says “Wellington City Council has a long history of supporting organisations in the sexual violence sector, but giving responsibility for this to a Councillor ensures that it remains a priority and that we have strong advocate for this issue representing our city.”

“Councillor Fitzsimons has spoken passionately about this issue in her maiden speech, giving us confidence that she will have a positive influence towards changing the culture that allows sexual violence to happen.”

“We look forward to working with Fitzsimons, the Mayor and the council more broadly to develop and implement new strategies to eliminate sexual violence in our city.”

“Sexual violence in preventable and we need to shift the focus to addressing the culture in which it exists.”

Sexual Abuse Prevention Network offers a range of education, professional development and consultancy services to businesses, schools, community groups and other organisations. SAPN works with agencies to develop policies, procedures and safety strategies unique to their organisation.

Programmes include the ‘It’s Our Business programme’ a programme tailored to the hospitality sector that assists staff in developing safety strategies in their bars, trains staff to identify dangerous situations and to intervene before sexual violence occurs, and to respond safely when an incident does happen.

“Every time we run this programme, bar staff all report that they have witnessed sexual harassment in their bars already. They all have a story to tell and want to know what they can do stop this kind of behaviour from happening. There is a need and desire in a broad range of workplaces for this kind of conversation to happen.”

 For more information or interviews contact Fiona McNamara, fiona@sexualabuseprevention.org.nz or 027 568 8639

Specialist sexual violence service supports calls from youth for consent education in schools

Specialist sexual violence prevention organisation, Sexual Abuse Prevention Network supports the calls from secondary school students for compulsory consent education in schools.

Widely publicized incidents in Wellington schools over the last week have prompted calls from secondary school students for compulsory consent education. Wellington secondary school students led a march to parliament last week to demand the education and a petition has been launched on online campaign platform, Action Station.

“We’ve heard what the young people are saying and we absolutely support their demand. It is essential that we teach young people about consent and healthy relationships. Who knows better what young people need than young people themselves?” says Sexual Abuse Prevention Network General Manager, Fiona McNamara.

Sexual Abuse Prevention Network specialises in providing education to young people that teaches young people to recognise the signs of abusive relationships and promotes healthy relationships and consent. SAPN delivers several well developed courses in the Wellington region, including their “Who are You?” programme and ACC’s “Mates and Dates” programme. However, the organisation says that its capacity to be delivering in all schools is currently stretched due to insecure resourcing, and that other specialist providers throughout the country are in the same position.

“The government needs to make consent education a priority and fund the delivery of effective specialist programmes accordingly” says McNamara.

All young people would benefit from access to education about healthy relationships. “We need programmes to be in every year level in every school. It is important that students receive this education each year at school. We are talking about cultural overhaul – this is not a quick fix where we see behavioural and attitude change after one lesson. Messages that promote healthy positive sexuality need to be reinforced throughout a students’ experience at high school. Additionally, it is important that specialist training and support is also available to teachers to support their ability to reinforce the messages and respond appropriately when issues arise.”

If you or someone you know needs support on matters relating to sexual violence, please contact the National Sexual Violence Service on 0800 88 33 00.

For more information or interviews, contact Fiona McNamara, fiona@sexualabuseprevention.org.nz or 04 801 8975

Recent incidents at Wellington College and St Patrick’s Silverstream

SAPN was disappointed to hear about the conversations within a private Facebook group of senior Wellington College students.

It is never okay to engage in sexual activity with an intoxicated person, and any such contact is illegal. Moreover, the idea of “taking advantage” of someone defies the definition of consent.

Likewise, it is disturbing to read reports of younger students at St. Patrick’s College Silverstream making intimate visual recordings of female staff members.

It’s clear that young men in New Zealand are being exposed to extremely problematic attitudes towards women, and that these attitudes are translating into harmful actions. SAPN hopes that we can broaden the conversation and use these events to encourage change – both within these schools, and in wider society.

There has been a strong focus on the individuals who made the various comments – but it is important to recognize the culture around these individuals that allows them to think that their behaviour is acceptable. Whether it’s the students who ‘liked’ the posts, or the many who saw the comments and said nothing – we need to recognize that these are not one-off, isolated incidents.

Likewise, the question about whether these attitudes have transferred into actions supports the myth that it only ‘counts’ as sexual violence when a physical interaction has occurred. A culture that allows young men to communicate in this way, without any intervention, provides a pathway to extreme physical sexual violence. Excuses like “boys will be boys” only create space for these harmful attitudes to thrive.

Teenage boys laughing about sexual relations with intoxicated young women on Facebook is all too familiar to the NZ public, and to question whether “banter” ever evolves into physical harm is to ignore all the evidence in front of us.

This afternoon, Fiona, Michael and Kyla (General Manager of Wellington Rape Crisis) met with headmaster Roger Moses and senior staff at Wellington College.

It was heartening to hear how seriously the school is treating this issue, and we spoke about encouraging a ‘whole-school’ approach to preventing attitudes and incidents like this.

We have outlined future plans – both short and long-term – that include up-skilling staff and student leaders, and more dedicated time and resources for classes on healthy relationships, consent, and bystander intervention.

Wellington College are committed to leading the way in creating cultural change – we hope that other schools will take their lead, and that we’ll see reduced rates of sexual violence to reflect this.

The standard that you walk by is the standard that you accept.

New Zealand rugby has opportunity to take the lead in transforming harmful sport culture

Sexual Abuse Prevention Network is glad to see the Chief Executive of New Zealand Rugby, Steve Tew, admit that they had handled an investigation of a recent sexual assault claim poorly. Sexual Abuse Prevention Network yesterday released a statement to the media highlighting the inadequacy of an ‘in-house’ investigation into the assault that occurred at an end of season Chiefs function. Tew last night acknowledged that “recent events show we [Rugby New Zealand] have not got it right.”

Sexual Abuse Prevention Network General Manager, Fiona McNamara, says: “It’s good to see that New Zealand Rugby has finally conceded that they handled this situation badly. We hope this means Rugby New Zealand will follow up with a robust review of policies and procedures around respectful relationships, as well as taking a critical look at the sport-wide culture towards consent.”

“We are disappointed to see that Steve Tew has continually insisted this morning that the allegations were not substantiated given that he accepted the internal investigation was mishandled. We also hope Mr Tew can appreciate that not being believed, and not being supported in judiciary systems, is a significant factor in why less than 9% of sexual assaults are ever reported to New Zealand Police. New Zealand Rugby’s focus needs to shift away from those results, and onto problems with respect within their institution.”

“We have reached out to Rugby New Zealand and offered consultation and training on sexual violence, respect and consent.”

“New Zealand rugby now has the opportunity to take the lead in transforming harmful culture in New Zealand sport.”

Chiefs ‘in-house’ investigation imitates society-wide power imbalances

Sexual Abuse Prevention Network is disappointed at Rugby New Zealand’s decision to conduct only an in-house investigation of the recent alleged sexual assault at an end of season Chief’s function.

The investigation came at the same time as a similar complaint from a woman working an end of season function the previous year, and Chiefs player Michael Allardice was witnessed making homophobic slurs at the same function as was subject to the current investigation. Sexual Abuse Prevention Network General Manager, Fiona McNamara, says “That all three of these incidents have been raised at once shows clearly that the Chiefs have a culture problem.”

“It was inappropriate for the investigation to be carried out by the General Legal Counsel for New Zealand Rugby. Scarlette was the final person interviewed as part of the investigation. This meant her full account could not inform the questions put to the 11 purportedly ‘independent’ witnesses.”

“The imbalanced power structures in this case imitate the larger, society-wide responses we see to sexual violence. Teams like the Chiefs, and other groups holding powerful positions in New Zealand, have the privilege of closing ranks around each other. They have access to powerful lawyers, public relations managers, and enjoy the ‘hero status’ of sports-people in New Zealand public. These privileges are not shared by Scarlette, or other victim-survivors of sexual violence.”

“That the team members received a ‘collective’ warning, rather than individual repercussions for their behaviour on the night of the function, illustrates perfectly how team culture – in sport particularly – can act to diminish personal accountability for gendered violence such as this. Further, the warning was regarding hiring a stripper for the event, rather than any abusive behaviour on the night. This takes the focus off promoting respectful treatment of women, and promotes the idea that people engaged in sex work are the source of the problem.”

“The actions of the team on the night have been variously called ‘a little slip up’, ‘boys being boys’ and ‘inevitable’, with blame being levelled at Scarlette as frequently as it has been at the players. What is most disheartening is that the Chiefs failed to take up an enormous opportunity to begin transforming toxic masculine culture in sports and rugby.”

A woman who was hired for the Chief’s end of season function as a stripper came out in days following stating that she had been subject to various incidents of abuse during the rugby team’s end-of-season function on 1 August at the Ōkoroire Hot Pools. The woman, who asked to be known as Scarlette, said some players indecently assaulted, threw gravel and chanted lewdly at her.

New Zealand Rugby Council investigated the incident, and decided to take no disciplinary action against the team, bar issuing a collective warning to the players.