29 Jan 2022

Victoria University apologises to former students for harm caused by composer

12:05 pm on 29 January 2022

Wellington's Victoria University has publicly apologised to a group of former students who say they were sexually abused by teacher and composer Jack Body.

Victoria University

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The university says it believes Body abused the students when he taught at the School of Music between the early 1980s and 2000s.

Body died in 2015.

The apology follows a months-long restorative justice process involving meetings with seven former students and a former staff member.

Jack Body

Jack Body died in 2015. Photo: Michael Norris

In a statement published on the university's website, it says their detailed reports demonstrated significant harm done to each of them.

During the restorative justice process the university said it "learned of students' experiences of sexual abuse by Jack Body, and heard accounts of predatory and grooming behaviours, aggression, coercion, and abuse of power imbalances. We also heard Jack Body used alcohol, flattery and implied career advantages to obtain consent".

"We would like to acknowledge the courage shown by those harmed in sharing their experiences and are deeply grateful to them for allowing us to understand what occurred. Their verbal reports and written statements were detailed, highly impactful, and demonstrated significant harm had occurred to each of them," the statement said.

The university has also apologised for initially saying there had been no 'direct allegations' against Body, when staff and students had in fact raised concerns at the time.

"We were shocked and saddened to hear the allegations and reported our preliminary understanding that there had been 'no direct allegations' against him," the statement said.

"We have since learned that concerns about sexually harmful behaviour were raised by staff and students at the time, and that our initial media statement inadvertently caused further harm."

The statement said the university acknowledges that harm took place over a long period and was " embedded in historical policy, cultural and institutional failures".

"We believe the stories we have heard. We deeply apologise to our former students and staff for the harm caused during their time at the University, and for its longstanding impact on their lives," the statement said.

Where to get help:

Sexual Violence

NZ Police

Victim Support 0800 842 846

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape Prevention Education

Empowerment Trust

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0

Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334.

Male Survivors Aotearoa