Sexual consent education 'must be in every school', Marama Davidson says

Rebecca Moore
Source: 1News

Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence Minister Marama Davidson says sexual consent education "must be in every school" following a "disturbing" survey of pupils at a Christchurch school.

On Monday, a survey of more than 700 pupils at Christchurch Girls' High School revealed students are  experiencing widespread sexual abuse  outside the school.

The survey was conducted after a group of students at the school protested against sexual harassment in May.

The survey was sent to 1042 consenting students, with 725 participating.

Results showed more than 20 students reported being raped.

As well, the girls were given the definition of sexual harassment, then 430 of them said they were harassed in some form, including groping or verbal abuse. Most said it had happened two to five times.

Overall, less than 10 per cent received any help or support after these incidents.

Davidson told 1 NEWS it was "absolutely unacceptable".

"I am disturbed but sadly I am not surprised," she said. "This has been a horrific problem for many, many years, many decades in fact. 

"For far too long we have had an issue of boys and men feeling that they have to behave in a certain way to be acceptable in society, that needs to change, this is not acceptable and I'm focused on the prevention work to help change those ideas, to help change those attitudes and the behaviours so that we can have safe communities, safe schools for all people, including our women and girls."

When asked if sexual consent education programmes should be compulsory in schools, Davidson said education had an important role to play.

"We've heard that coming through from the community that schools and education can play an important role and I think it must be in every school. 

"I am going to launch a national strategy before the end of this year with priority action plans. I expect to see Government commitment to education, to supporting schools, to play a role in that education and understanding for what it means to be a respectful person. 

"I think that there must be programmes, education conversations in schools, so right now we are finishing up the national strategy towards eliminating family violence and sexual violence."

Her comments come after victim advocate Ruth Money yesterday told Breakfast the Government had spent a lot on violence and abuse prevention, but that it wasn't making it into the community.

"If we had the  Loves-Me-Not  course in every school for every child, plus we had more school counsellors that would do more," Money said.

"We need to be really targetted about where we spend this money and it's not in ministry buildings in Wellington, it's in the community.

"This is a community epidemic, this is not school aged young people against young people, this is adults abusing our young people, it's male versus male, it's male-female, the poor rainbow community is one of the most abused communities, disability, you know, this is an epidemic."

When asked if the Government was doing enough in this space, Davidson admitted there was more work to do.

"There is a lot more that needs to happen to transform and focus our priority on prevention work," she said.

"Right now I am also prioritising commitment over years to focus on prevention, to stop this from happening in the first place – that is a long-term commitment that we have seen for the first time ever. 

"I want the education system as a whole to understand their opportunity, their role in more education, more discussion and conversation about what healthy relationships look like, what explicit consent means, what it means for all people, including young men, to be able to healthily express their emotions. 

"There is a massive role that can be played in the education space and there is a lot of people doing excellent work in the healthier conversations that can keep our women, our young women and girls safe, but also our men safe in having better guidance about what it means to be a respectful person. 

"Also right now, all of the services, we increased support and budget for them in previous Budgets under this Government. They all need to be available, we've made them available for exactly this and I would absolutely encourage young women and girls and their families to reach out."