Police note big drop in sexual complaints

South Canterbury police have noticed a "massive" decrease in sexual misconduct complaints after helping to educate the region's youth.

Detective Sergeant Dylan Murray said the police had become frustrated knowing their Monday mornings would be filled dealing with sexual misconduct complaints.

"We thought there are better ways for us to be spending our time.

"It's [sexual misconduct] a problem across New Zealand, not just in South Canterbury," Murray said.

South Canterbury police initiated their own programme within high schools a couple of years ago, and then participated in last year's pilot programme Loves Me Not, developed by the Sophie Elliott Foundation.

Loves Me Not focuses on the prevention of violent and unhealthy relationships, and ensures people, especially youth, recognise what is a healthy relationship.

"We have noticed a massive change in what is happening in South Canterbury. Although we don't have the actual numbers, the prevention programmes have made a massive impact," he said.

Mountainview High School participated in the pilot for the programme, and assistant principal Rowan Milburn said they had found it beneficial.

Social media and peer pressure impacted youth, who are curious and starting to explore relationships, but have not got the tools to recognise what is wrong and right.

Milburn said the programme had highlighted issues surrounding consent - especially that it is not OK to be intimate with someone when intoxicated.

"The programme also taught the students about other relationships, not just sexual.

"[It] could be friendships that have become manipulative. The programme is about being assertive and protecting your friends," Milburn said.

South Canterbury Women's Refuge manager Dawn Rangi-Smith said anything that got the message across about healthy behaviour was a good thing.

"Violence seems to be getting more severe and harsher, which is frightening," she said.

"These programmes are educating people, and once they have that knowledge they can't get rid of it," she said.

An Accident Compensation Corporation spokesman said it was aware of the need for sexual safety programmes throughout the country.

He believed its knowledge of injury prevention could assist in making a viable national programme, working in with various agencies.

ACC is cooperating with government organisations, including the Ministry of Education. It is developing a programme to be rolled out to pilot high schools later this year.

A national rollout is expected next year.

The Timaru Herald