SAPN was disappointed to hear about the conversations within a private Facebook group of senior Wellington College students.
It is never okay to engage in sexual activity with an intoxicated person, and any such contact is illegal. Moreover, the idea of “taking advantage” of someone defies the definition of consent.
Likewise, it is disturbing to read reports of younger students at St. Patrick’s College Silverstream making intimate visual recordings of female staff members.
It’s clear that young men in New Zealand are being exposed to extremely problematic attitudes towards women, and that these attitudes are translating into harmful actions. SAPN hopes that we can broaden the conversation and use these events to encourage change – both within these schools, and in wider society.
There has been a strong focus on the individuals who made the various comments – but it is important to recognize the culture around these individuals that allows them to think that their behaviour is acceptable. Whether it’s the students who ‘liked’ the posts, or the many who saw the comments and said nothing – we need to recognize that these are not one-off, isolated incidents.
Likewise, the question about whether these attitudes have transferred into actions supports the myth that it only ‘counts’ as sexual violence when a physical interaction has occurred. A culture that allows young men to communicate in this way, without any intervention, provides a pathway to extreme physical sexual violence. Excuses like “boys will be boys” only create space for these harmful attitudes to thrive.
Teenage boys laughing about sexual relations with intoxicated young women on Facebook is all too familiar to the NZ public, and to question whether “banter” ever evolves into physical harm is to ignore all the evidence in front of us.
This afternoon, Fiona, Michael and Kyla (General Manager of Wellington Rape Crisis) met with headmaster Roger Moses and senior staff at Wellington College.
It was heartening to hear how seriously the school is treating this issue, and we spoke about encouraging a ‘whole-school’ approach to preventing attitudes and incidents like this.
We have outlined future plans – both short and long-term – that include up-skilling staff and student leaders, and more dedicated time and resources for classes on healthy relationships, consent, and bystander intervention.
Wellington College are committed to leading the way in creating cultural change – we hope that other schools will take their lead, and that we’ll see reduced rates of sexual violence to reflect this.
The standard that you walk by is the standard that you accept.