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

NZ Book Fair – A SAPN Fundraiser

The SAPN New Zealand Book Fair

Grab a bargain or the perfect Christmas present and show your support for the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network!

The SAPN New Zealand Book Fair will feature a wide range of popular and limited edition New Zealand books generously donated by Booksellers NZ. Books in as-new condition, including:

– Children’s books- illustrated and chapter books
– Poetry
– Non-fiction
– NZ Literature
– Art books
– Some rare books

Books will be priced from $5. There will also be gift wrapping and snacks available for a gold coin donation.

All funds raised will go towards SAPN’s work in the community, providing consent and healthy relationships education programmes to youth and adults.

Venue: 19 Tory Street upstairs space (NB there is a small lip at the entrance of the building, there will be a person to assist at the door during the event and lift access to Level 1)

Time: Saturday 16th December, 12-5pm

Wellington City Council Safety in the City Award

Safety in the City Awards. Wharewaka function centre. Photo by Mark Coote for WCC.

We are so pleased to have received a Safety in the City Award from the Wellington City Council.

Below is the speech general manager Fiona McNamara gave on the night:

It’s not long ago that sexual violence was barely recognised as an issue. In recent years, things have come a long way and this award shows that attitudes towards sexual violence are changing and that the wider community is placing real value on education about consent and healthy relationships.

I’d like to acknowlege the whole SAPN team, all our staff including our educators who go out and have challenging conversations with young people and other groups, our volunteers who generously donate their time and the Trust Board. I’d like to acknowlege the three agencies that are part of our network and that support our prevention work Wellington Rape Crisis, Wellington Sexual abuse HELP Foundation and WellStop, and also to acknowledge the chair of our Board Helen Sullivan who was one of the founders of SAPN back in the early 2000s and has played a key role in its strategic direction ever since.

Thank you again for this award, it’s an amazing way to end our busiest year yet and great encouragement to continue to grow the reach of our programmes next year. We know that every instance of sexual violence is preventable and we are absolutely committed to ending it and supporting safe and thriving communities.

Judy O’Brien’s Speech at the #WeToo March

I’m Judy O’Brien, Coordinator for Sexual Abuse Prevention Network – a collaboration of two survivor support agencies – Wellington Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Help Foundation and an agency that works with offenders – WellStop.

Sexual Abuse Prevention Network offers a range of programmes for professionals, and young people to develop skills to identify risky situations and strategies to intervene safely.  We also offer programmes that focus on improving understanding of consent and ethical sexual decision making.When preparing what I was going to say tonight, a friend suggested I just get up here and scream for three minutes because that’s honestly all I’ve wanted to do for the past couple of weeks. The recent media attention given to the stories of people calling out the abusive behaviour of men in powerful positions has brought to light the shockingly high prevalence of sexual violence throughout or communities  and it’s just not  good enough. I am so humbled and inspired by the raw honesty and shameless bravery of survivors of sexual assault coming forward and sharing their own stories. You have offered hope and support to so many others who have felt shamed and isolated by their own experiences. But we shouldn’t have to share our stories for people to take this seriously! Or to recognise that sexual violence Affects. Us. All! Instead of expecting survivors to share their stories, we as a society should be demanding that people who sexually harm others recognise that their behaviour is harmful, and encourage others to change. 

Rape and sexual abuse in our communities is a much wider issue than just what we see on our newsfeeds – this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Just one “me too” is one too many.  New Zealand has a shockingly high incidence of sexual abuse and rape and Wellington has one of the highest number reported to Police. In NZ, 1 in 4 women, 1 in 8 men, 1 in 2 transgender people and up to 90% of people with some disabilities will be affected by sexual abuse in their lifetime. Only 9% of these incidents are reported to Police and only 1 in 10 is committed by a stranger to the victim.We need cultural and behavioural change so that this kind of assault does not happen in the first place. We need a high level commitment to ongoing consent education for our young people. Most sexual negotiations between young people are non-verbal.  People need to understand the complexities and nuances of consent and the links between alcohol and sexual abuse. If someone is heavily under the influence of alcohol or drugs – it is illegal to have sex with them. In NZ, alcohol is the most commonly used drug to facilitate sexual abuse and half of all rapes in NZ are associated with alcohol.

The whole community can be part of preventing sexual abuse. The most effective way to stop rape is to address the behaviour of the rapist.

We can  also address behaviors that may not themselves be illegal but could be  precursors to sexual violence.  People often do harm without knowing that their behaviour is harmful. Call people up on bad behavior. If your friend is pursuing someone who is clearly too drunk to make informed decisions – pull them aside and let them know this is not ok.

We need to address behaviors, beliefs and attitudes that contribute to rape culture. If people you know joke about rape or sexual abuse – tell them that this is unacceptable as it trivializes the issues and isolates the survivors who may be present, making it harder for them ever to disclose their abuse. It may lead to potential abusers thinking that their behavior acceptable. If people you know make comments that undermine women or that stereotype women as passive and indicate that men need to be persistent to get what they want sexually – then let them know that their attitudes undermine women’s sexuality and ignore consent, encouraging young men to pressure women into doing things that they don’t want to.    

Call up transphobic and queerphobic comments and behaviours as discrimination against diverse genders and sexualities contributes to rape culture.Look out for those who may be at risk. If you see or hear something which may be dangerous or suspicious, contact the local police or step in yourself to offer support if it is safe to do so. We cannot assume that someone else will intervene. Research on the “bystander effect” shows that the more people that witness a situation, the less likely anyone is to take action. Being an ethical bystander doesn’t mean being a hero. It means making the smallest gesture that might prevent harm from occuring.  Check in with your friends when you are out drinking, check in with other peoples friends.We all have a role to play in preventing sexual violence. This has gone on too long. But change is possible! Within my lifetime, marital rape became a crime, and consensual homosexual sex became legal. The energy to change our culture is right here. We too can make a difference. Let’s not focus on our individual stories but take strength from the power of our collective rage and resilience.

Please, take care of yourselves and each other.

Kia kaha.

#MeToo – What can you do?

This week we’ve all  been watching the #metoo campaign unfold. It’s been a full on couple of weeks with news of Harvey  Weinstein’s abuse hitting the media and many brave survivours standing up and telling their stories.

In response to these stories, many people have felt driven to take action, and so I’ve put together a list of some ideas of what you can do to contribute to ending the culture in which the abuse happens.   –  Fiona

1. Educate yourself

If you’re not quite sure what all this is about, then look it up. There’s a huge amount online if you google key words like ‘rape culture’ and ‘victim blaming.’ A s a starting point, here’s a chat I had with Jessie Mulligan about #metoo specifically.

Here’s a short article about consent.

Here’s a quick article about rape culture.

2. Keep informed

We’re sending out our first ever newsletter today, you can sign up here.Check out other organisations doing great work, including Wellington Rape Crisis, Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP Foundation, WellStop, TOAH-NNEST, InsideOut, Rainbow Youth, Women’s Refuge and Rape Prevention Education.

3. Be kind to yourself.

It’s very normal to feel overwhelmed or upset by the huge number of #metoo, as well as the emerging #ihave and itsme, posts. It’s OK to log out of social media. It’s OK to ask people to take a break from talking about it. It’s OK to ask for help. You can find a support service in your area here or call 0800 88 33 00.

4. Call people up on bad behaviour.

If your mate is pursuing someone who is clearly too intoxicated to make rational decisions: pull them aside and let them know this is not OK. Be brave and have those hard conversations.

5. Call out jokes about rape or sexual abuse.

Explain that this trivializes and normalises unacceptable behaviour. It can also isolate survivors, making it harder for them ever to disclose their abuse.

6. Call out behaviour that undermines women.

It might be a comment, it might be that women are talked over in a meeting, it might be that women are not invited to the meeting at all. Call out the comment. Make space for everyone to be heard, this might mean saying less and listening more yourself. Include women. Promote women’s voices.

7. Call out stereotypes and gender roles.

Stereotypes that cast women as passive and men as powerful are dangerous. They lead to a culture of entitlement and abuse.

8. Call out transphobic and queerphobic comments and behaviours.

Discrimination against diverse genders and sexualities de-legitimises people’s identities and makes them targets of abuse and violence.

9. Don’t stand for marginalising anyone in our community.

Say something about racism, ableism and ageism.

10. Support survivors.

Check if they are at risk of further harm. Ask them how you can support them. Tell them and show them that you’ve heard them, that you believe them and that it wasn’t their fault.

11. Pro-actively suport women.

Promote women and encourage them to take leadership roles, share content written by women, insist you have female speakers on your panels. Listen to women.

12. Actively support people with diverse gender and sexuality identities.

Promote. Encourage. Share. Listen. Support.

13. Consider what you can do in your workplace or community.

Do you have a leadership role at your work or voluntary organisation? What policies and processes does your organisation have to prevent bad behaviour in the first place or to respond when something does happen? What can you do to ensure that these are place?

14. Upskill and start conversations in your workplace or community.

SAPN offers a range of workshops that develop skills, such as intervening to prevent sexual abuse and responding to disclosures of sexaul abuse. We can tailor them to suit your organsiation. Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss some options.

15. Donate to a local support service.

You can find one relevant to you here. If you’re in Wellington and want to donate to a service that supports survivors you can chose from Wellington Rape Crisis or Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP Foundation.

If you want to give your donation to a service that is working to educate and change the culture in which sexual violence happens, you can donate to us:

16. Think about what you can offer.

For us, the best kind of voluntary contribution is when someone is able to use their skills to support our work. We’ve been lucky to be supported by pro bono legal services, volunteer graphic design, administration and bookkeeping advice. Sometimes people run fundraisers for us in their own communities, meaning that they are able to access the support of and raise awareness about sexual violence among people outside of our own networks.

Thank you to Z Energy Good in the Hood

We we thrilled to receive a donation of $838.59 from Z Energy Good in the Hood. Huge thanks to everyone in our community who voted for us at Z Vivian Street and congratulations to all the charities and initiatives that received funds, including our friends at Wellington Rape Crisis! We had a great time hanging out with lots of awesome community organisations the morning tea today!