RespectEd Aotearoa’s submission on National Strategy for Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence

On 30 June 2021, RespectEd Aotearoa made a submission to the Joint Venture for Family Violence and Sexual Violence, towards their development of the National Strategy and Action Plan to eliminate family violence and sexual violence.

We urge the Government to recognise the need to increase spending on primary prevention of sexual harm across all ages in our community and within our submission, included a series of recommendations to Government. These recommendations are aimed at ensuring the coordinated effort of key stakeholders and raises key areas for the Government to focus on in order to end sexual harm in Aotearoa.

For more information on 14 recommendations set out, please download the submission below.

Pre-Election Panel Event

Last month we had a thorough cross-party discussion with the panelists and are pleased to share the full recording of the Pre-Election Panel Event on Sexual Violence issues here.

This video has the full korero from the panel but is missing the opening mihi from the moderator and an opening statement from RespectEd CEO. Our NZ sign language interpreters join the call at the 9-minute mark. Thanks for your understanding!

COVID-19: A Level 2 Update

Kia ora te whānau

Here we are again in Level Two. Despite being prepared for the reality of community transmission, we couldn’t help but feel a little shocked when it happened. Our thoughts are with those directly affected and wider community in Tāmaki Makaurau, including our fellow Mates and Dates providers.

At RespectEd Aotearoa, we are closely following the Ministry of Health guidelines and continuing to provide education in the community across the Lower and Central North Island. We are taking additional precautions at Level Two. Our staff will, of course, be maintaining a two-metre distance from those we don’t know and a one-metre distance where two metres is not possible. We will also be wearing masks while out in the community, including in the classroom.

Additionally, we have reduced shared high touch surfaces by removing physical resources from our programmes, with group activities happening instead by discussion or using the whiteboard.

Our staff will be based from their homes during Level Two, with minimal office use. You can continue to contact us as you normally would on our emails, mobile phones and our portable office landline: 04 801 8975.

We, like all of you, are hoping to be back in Level One soon but are prepared should we need to keep working at the higher levels. We’ve done this before, and we can do it again.

Kia kaha Aotearoa.

Why feeling safe and supported matters at school

Kaarin Slevin is the Academic Lead at Toi Whakaari, the New Zealand Drama School. In working with RespectEd Aotearoa, Toi Whakaari have taken pro-active steps to create a safer, healthier and happier learning and working environment for everyone in the Toi Whakaari whānau.

MPs’ bad behaviour shows Parliament needs to look at its workplace culture


This week there have been revelations of poor behaviour by Members of Parliament across the political spectrum beginning with the news of Andrew Falloon, a former MP from the National Party, allegedly sending pornographic images to multiple young women, including a 19-year-old.

These issues speak to poor decisions on behalf of the members involved, and of a cultural problem in Parliament – one that links to issues more widely in New Zealand society.

In the case of Andrew Falloon, the story has been spun to be one of a man suffering mental distress and of drinking to cope with this, resulting in making bad decisions. This spin is an attempt to elicit sympathy and to excuse his actions. By not addressing the actual behaviour in question, it does nothing to indicate that he views himself as accountable for it or to show he understands what actually might have led to these bad decisions – which would be a step towards changing his behaviour.

Firstly, on the mental health line: mental distress is not a risk factor for sexual harm.

Most people who suffer mental distress and illness do not engage in sexually harmful behaviour towards others. It is important that society does not lean into this idea, because to do so would risk creating a myth that people with mental health concerns might be at risk of sexually harming someone – and of course, the vast majority will not. It’s not only offensive and unhelpful, it also risks adding to the already long list of unfounded assumptions that create stigma around mental illness and therefore inhibit society’s understanding of it.

Alcohol has also been mentioned as a contributing factor in at least one of the instances and is another issue that distracts from the central one.

There is a link between alcohol and sexual harm: in New Zealand, 50 percent of sexual assaults involve alcohol, and 50 percent do not. This shows that alcohol does not directly lead to harmful sexual behaviour. Any adult who has drunk alcohol can work that out: most adults have experienced having too much to drink, and they did not do sexual harm as a result.

So, if not from an individual’s mental health and if not from alcohol, where does the urge to send unsolicited pornography, or to do any other sexual behaviour without consent, come from?

Well, it is embedded within our society. We live in a culture in which pornography is becoming increasingly accessible, increasingly widely used, and often normalises harmful behaviour.

Alongside that, the idea of sending these images to others has become a normalised behaviour. Where there is consent from everyone involved, image sharing and use of some pornography can be OK, but other pornography, as well as a lot of mainstream entertainment, normalises and glorifies a lack of consent.

To add to this, women are often sexualised in the media, in advertising and in everyday interactions. These societal influences combined can result in individuals seeing some of the harmful behaviour depicted in pornography as normal, seeing women as sexual objects, and not valuing asking for consent as an ordinary part of most interpersonal interactions, leading to them taking actions like sending pornography to women who have not requested it.

Does this mean we can say Falloon was a product of society and as an individual it’s not his fault?

No. Ultimately, he chose to take those actions, intoxicated, distressed or not.

We all live in this same society and most of us do not do sexual harm. Harmful messages are pervasive and those certainly do influence people’s behaviour, but ultimately, we do know what is right and wrong. As part of the work of RespectEd Aotearoa I work through these issues with groups including teenagers, community groups and professionals. While I have heard and experienced a range of harmful attitudes in these group settings, it’s extremely rare that an adult, or even a 14 year old, thinks that sending pornography without someone’s consent is an OK thing to do.

Ultimately this is about someone in a key national leadership role using harmful sexual behaviour. This person’s actions have shown disregard for the women to whom he sent the pictures and he should be held accountable for his actions. Of course, issues around his mental health are real too, and when this topic is being discussed in the public arena, that can add additional stress, so there needs to be support around him at same time as he is held accountable.

Falloon’s actions have occurred within a wider context of many stories of poor behaviour from Members of Parliament in terms of bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and inappropriate relationships – including today’s news of Labour’s Iain Lees-Galloway conducting an inappropriate relationship with a staff member.

Just as an increasing number of workplaces around the country are already doing, Parliament, as a workplace, needs to undertake comprehensive work to ensure its members understand not only what bad behaviour is but also what good behaviour is.

Parliament should lead the way towards a healthier positive culture in New Zealand, by looking at its own culture, and taking action to support other organisations and communities to do the same.

This opinion piece was originally published on Radio NZ.

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.

We Need To Talk About Porn – A workshop for parents/guardians

Porn is everywhere! It’s a very different age from when many of us were teenagers and technology has come a long way from having a sneaky look at a magazine in the bushes at school with your mates. If you have a smart phone, you can access pornography and statistics show that many young people do. But how do we talk about it? How do we even start a conversation that makes many of us feel uncomfortable? How do we frame it so our teens aren’t scared off sex or talking to us for good?

Based on work delivered in schools, this workshop will cover how to talk about healthy relationships, consent and how to get your young person to understand how the sex we see in pornography is very different to sex in the real world.

By the end of this workshop, you’ll be able to:

  • Talk to your teens about healthy relationships
  • Understand what consent is and why it’s so sexy
  • Identify the impacts of pornography on young people – in particular their ideas on relationships, body image and sex
  • Discuss and navigate how to respond to realistic scenarios
  • Feel prepared to have a conversation with your teen about pornography

Sex is a great part of life and we want to raise our children to be adults who have healthy and fulfilling relationships. Having these conversations is one practical step we can take to empower them to do so. Be brave and sign up, even if it makes you squirm just a little.

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, or 027 568 8639

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