School pilot for sexual violence prevention

IAIN SCOTT
Last updated 12:00 18/03/2014

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A school-based pilot project aimed at preventing sexual violence has been broadly welcomed by stakeholders in Manawatu.

ACC Minister Judith Collins said at the weekend ACC would fund a new school-based pilot project as part of its new focus on preventing sexual violence.

The programme, which was still in its early stages of development, was being developed with an advisory group made up of representatives of the sexual violence prevention sector, community groups, government agencies and academics, with input from students, parents and teachers.

"This pilot programme will teach young people the value of having healthy relationships based on respect, negotiation and consent," Ms Collins said.

Abuse and Rape Crisis Support (Arcs) Manawatu manager Ann Kent said yesterday Arcs presented a programme, called Respect, in some schools but its resources were limited. "Similar to what ACC is proposing, it focuses on healthy relationships. International research shows that what young people are looking for is not just a long list of what not to do, but how to have healthy relationships that are free of abuse."

She welcomed the pilot project.

"I think it's a big positive that ACC is directing resources into the prevention of sexual violence and to develop a national programme," she said. More schools were likely to pick up the programme if it was based on international best practice.

The New Zealand Educational Institute's Palmerston North representative, Liam Rutherford, said prevention was always a good thing.

"The issue with what they are suggesting here is only a drop in the bucket of what this area needs," he said. "This is the same Government that cut access to support for rape victims through ACC."

However, he welcomed the fact that a range of different stakeholders were being consulted.

"As a solution it is admirable that they are looking to tie together a lot of the current programmes to make them more co-ordinated but there is still a lot more to be done."

Manawatu Women's Refuge manager Ang Jury said it was good that stakeholders were being consulted rather than importing an overseas model. The pilot project was a "great idea". "Those sorts of programmes have been wandering around the Manawatu in different guises for many years and there have been places like Arcs that have tried to get them off the ground and not been supported."

She said Women's Refuge had not been involved in school-based projects in the past.

"It has been something that is outside our resourcing. It sits in the ‘nice to have but can't afford' place."

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Dr Jury said she would like to see a programme that included students of all ages. Starting at intermediate or high school was too late, as students in those age groups were often in relationships and their behaviour was already entrenched.

Te Manawa Services manager Julie Miller said the project was a good initiative.

"Not all children come from families where that respect is role modelled and that's something that we encounter quite often - sexualising and objectifying."

She said many children the service encountered simply did not know how to respect others.

"The earlier you start the better, because a lot of kids are sexually active at 11 and 12, and even 10 now, unfortunately."

- Manawatu Standard

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