ACC initiative targets sexual violence

POSITIVE PROGRAMME: Trials of a new sexual and dating anti-violence programme by ACC is seeing good student engagement at Papakura High School.
POSITIVE PROGRAMME: Trials of a new sexual and dating anti-violence programme by ACC is seeing good student engagement at Papakura High School.

They are talking sex and violence at Papakura High - and how the two don't mix.

The school is the first in South Auckland to trial Mates & Dates, a new ACC's initiative that aims to help prevent sex and dating violence by teaching teenagers healthy relationship skills and behaviour.

It's being piloted during term three across seven classes and organisers say it's getting good results.

ACC statistics shows the 15 to 24 age group is the most at risk from violence by current and ex-partners.

One in five female and one in 10 male secondary school students report unwanted sexual contact or being made to do unwanted sexual things.

Around 37 per cent describe the unwanted activity as severe and 57 per cent tell no-one.

Korowai Tumanako, a Maori service designed to support those affected by sexual violence, facilitates Mates & Dates at Papakura High.

Its director Russell Smith says the response from students has been great and many of those who were disengaged at first were taking notes by the second or third sessions.

The programme teaches about healthy relationships, consent and how to stay safe.

"The hope is to normalise discussions," Smith says.

Fellow director Joy Te Wiata says students are encouraged to apply the lessons to all areas of their lives and recognise how to help others in danger.

"It's quite a courageous programme in that we are making discussions about sexual violence overt," she says.

"They're simple, key messages."

School guidance counsellor Avril Michaels says she's also pleased with "how positively the staff of the classes have embraced the programme".

ACC sexual violence prevention programme manager Sandra Dickson says it applies to all kinds of relationships and extends the organisation's role in helping people deal with experiences of sexual violence.

It already plays a key role supporting people dealing with the effects of sexual abuse or assault, she says.

"We now want to play a greater role in helping to prevent sexual and dating violence and the harms they cause."

The programme is relevant to all students, whether they're in a relationship or not, she says.

"It covers all kinds of relationships such as friendships and those with family. The programme will help students think about relationships they already have, as well as dating in the future.

"It's a challenging time for teenagers to be growing into adulthood. We hope Mates & Dates will give them the skills and tools they need to both make that transition safely and carry with them throughout their lives."

ACC minister Judith Collins was at the school last week to catch up on the programme's progress.

She describes it as "a fantastic step to prevention" and says she supports challenging current mentalities around sexual violence.

Papakura High is one of nine schools around the country trialing the new programme.

If you or someone you know needs information or help after a sexual assault or abuse, contact ACC's sensitive claims unit confidentially on 0800 735 566. See for information on where to seek help if you have experienced sexual violence or become concerned about harmful sexual behaviour towards others.

Papakura Courier