11 Aug 2017

ACC targets students in anti-sexual violence initiative

From Nine To Noon, 9:09 am on 11 August 2017

ACC is spending $1.4 million on a new programme aimed at combatting sexual violence on university and polytechnic campuses.

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Photo: RNZ/Rebekah Parsons-King

It has entered a three year partnership with the Union of Students' Associations, which will involve training programmes and a review of policies around sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention in tertiary institutions.

The programme will also provide education and communications to students and staff.

Speaking to Nine to Noon, ACC Violence Injury Prevention Manager Mike McCarthy said people aged under 25 made up 43 percent of claims related to sexual violence.

He said while the programme would target young people, sexual violence and consent were much wider issues for New Zealand.

"Consent education for students is varied and inconsistent, and of course sometimes there is an extensive history of violence or abuse that has occurred to a young person well before they reach their tertiary setting."

New Zealand Union of Students' Associations president of the Jonathan Gee said there was a grass roots movement on campuses to combat sexual violence.

"There needs to be better understanding around the experiences of those who face sexual violence."

As part of the programme, staff will speak to first year students in halls of residence, as Mr Gee said many of them were often experiencing a new-found sense of independence with little support.

There would also be training on how to deal with being a 'bystander' in situations of sexual abuse, he said.

"Knowing what to do when you're at a party and you have an inkling that there might be an incident of sexual assault or sexual harassment taking place."

McCarthy said the effects of sexual violence could be far reaching for young people.

"The impacts on their mental health and well-being can impact on their study and other aspects of their life."

He said ACC's primary approach was around prevention, but also around changing the culture surrounding sexual abuse.

"Some have been exposed to things that have become their norm and so it's challenging what that norm means."

While prevention was a key focus, the programme would also support victims.

"If we talk about this in the way that we're trying to be open about it, we are going to have more people come forward.

The agreement with the union is one of a number of programmes ACC is working on in the area, including its healthy relationship programme, Mates and Dates, which is being piloted in a number of schools.