Schoolgirl, 10, attacked for looking like a boy
A 10-year-old Central Otago girl was punched and taunted for looking like a boy by high school girls who then posted a video of the attack online.
The victim was walking to her mother's work after school on Tuesday when the attacked happened.
Her mother said her daughter had caught the bus from her primary school and got off at the college to wait for her sisters who had netball training. The three were meant to walk together, but she decided to leave early.
"The group of girls were all walking in front of her at first, then they doubled back and came up behind her. They followed her, were taunting her and came up to her. (My daughter) stood her ground but (the attacker) hit her, and hit her again."
An associate of the offender filmed the attack on a cellphone, later posting it on social media.
In the video, prior to the first punch, a girl calls out: "Are you a boy or a girl?" the victim responds: "Does it really matter?" "Yeah it does", a girl says before the victim replies: "No, it doesn't" then she is punched.
The victim was a girl but looked like a boy, her mother said.
"She wants to be a boy. If anyone calls her a boy it isn't a problem for her. She hasn't worn a dress since she was two-years-old. We have come to grips with it and that is how we have raised her....But these older kids are so nasty...calling her a "he/she or an it"."
A man on a bike who witnessed the attack came to her aid and he picked her up and walked her back to the college to her sisters, she said.
The mother took her to the police station and when they came out the girls were waiting outside.
"They were laughing . . . I turned around and said, 'You think you are tough beating up a 10-year-old?' (The attacker) said, 'Yes, I do and I would do it again'."
The girls called the mother "a n...er and a slut", she said.
The family did not realise a video of the attack had been posted on social media until later the night.
"I felt sick to my stomach seeing it. She holds her own, but there is no way she could stick up for herself. She has a sore head and is also terrified to go to school."
Her daughter found it hard adjusting to school and she feared the attack would set her back.
"It was only term two I was able to drop her to school and leave without her crying and the teachers having to take her away. I am so scared this is going to set her back. She is adamant she is not going next year...Her primary school teachers, student and parents are so accepting but I am getting worried she is going to start questioning herself because of these close-minded people. Some people can't get past the fact some people are not in their right bodies."
Sergeant Bruce Terry said police had received the video and were investigating the incident.
"Police have spoken to a number of witnesses and, along with other agencies, are working with the families of those involved. While this is an ongoing investigation, and in order to protect the identities of the young people involved, it is not appropriate to comment further."
"It is disappointing that a video of this nature is being shared through social media and police are working to have the footage removed. We ask members of the public to consider the individuals' privacy and not to share the post or posts of this nature further, which may cause further harm to the victims."
The principal of the girls accused of the attack was aware of the video and said the school was "very concerned".
"I have been in contact with the local police and the matter is being followed up by them.
"I understand that the assault happened after school, off school grounds between a student who attends our school and a student from a local primary school.
"Because of this it is a matter for the police to investigate and take action on."
School staff had also been made aware of the video and were monitoring students to ensure they were supported and kept safe, the principal said.
The principal had checked with New Zealand Schools Trustees Association on what disciplinary action the school could take and he was informed that they had no ability to use their school's discipline procedures because the incident happened after school hours and off school grounds, he said.
"I have had this confirmed by the Ministry of Education Dunedin Office."
Netsafe's chief executive officer Martin Cocker said the act of posting a video of an attack online should be viewed as a separate attempt to harm the victim.
"You need to think about the posting and the physical assault as two separate attempts to harm the person. Posting the video is a different sort of harm because you are continuing to tell the victim they are hopeless, de-powered and continue to be vulnerable to this other group."
The fact digital content could be harmful was recognised in New Zealand law, he said.
"Parents and educators are required to constantly reinforce to young people that this kind of thing is more than unacceptable, it is unlawful."