Many of you would have seen the #MeToo campaign flooding social media these past couple of months. Sparked by the multiple reports of sexual assault and harassment carried out by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, the campaign’s aim is to elevate the voices of those who’ve suffered from sexual harassment and/or assault. People from all walks of life have shared their stories, showing us again that sexual violence is not only a ‘Hollywood’ or ‘celebrity’ issue, it happens in our own communities too. In New Zealand alone, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys may be sexually abused before they turn 16 years old. On top of that, a 2011 UN report ranked New Zealand as the worst country in the OECD for sexual violence rates.

Like many social media campaigns, the reaction to #MeToo has been mixed. While it may empower some people, and shines a spotlight on a heavily stigmatised issue, people are raising concerns that it places the ‘responsibility’ and ‘work’ on survivors rather than perpetrators, and may be remembered as a ‘moment’ rather than a ‘movement’ that can produce solid changes.

In Auckland, there are organisations like Rape Prevention Education who are already working in our communities to reduce the rates of sexual violence. One of their programmes is ‘BodySafe’, an interactive 4 part module that’s delivered to high school students (years 9, 10, and 11) – you may have already had them in your class! In a nutshell, BodySafe is about “promoting healthy relationships by having open and supportive conversations about respectful relationships, sex, and consent”.

The good news is that it’s having positive effects on young people – increasing their knowledge and understanding of sexual violence and how they can get help. Between October and December 2016, Rape Prevention Education along with the research centres SHORE and Whariki, carried out an evaluation which involved 529 students across 4 schools. They saw that after attending the course 6 months ago, students had:

An increase in knowledge and skills relating to respectful sexual experiences:

  • Over 74% of students are able to talk about sexual consent.
  • Over 85% can identify when people can’t give sexual consent.
  • Over 86% can recognise what sexual harmful behaviour looks, feels and sounds like.

Rights and responsibilities in relating to respectful relationships.

  • 63% of students felt comfortable talking about safe sex.
  • 90% of students knew what respectful communication looks like.
  • 80% of students were able to recognise what disrespectful relationships look, feel and sounds like.

Knowledge of youth support services and how to access them

  • 88% of students understood the impact of child sexual abuse.
  • 88% of students understood why people may not tell others they had experienced sexual abuse.
  • 68% of students identified their friends as their source of support.
  • 53% of students identified their school counsellor as their source of support.
  • Between 11% and 26% of students identified other sources of supports like the dean, subject teacher, school nurse, doctor.
  • 60% of students identified Youthline as a source of support.

This improvement in knowledge and skills play an important part in reducing sexual violence in our communities. It helps to empower young people and begins to create a safer culture with more positive attitudes around sex, sexuality, and gender. Remember, everyone has the right to positive and respectful sexual experiences if and when they choose to engage in sexual activity.

You can learn more about Rape Prevention Education here and follow them on Facebook  and Instagram @rpe_nz.

Need someone to talk to?

If you or someone you know are in immediate danger, call the police on 111. You can call 111 from your cellphone even if you have no credit.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, raped, or abused, there is help available. Find a sexual assault support centre near you.

Other organisations include:

Lifeline0800 543 354

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email [email protected]

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

What’s Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children’s helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155