26 Oct 2022

Survey of two Christchurch high schools reveals scale of sexual harassment

11:19 am on 26 October 2022
Asian girls students writing test exams on paper for Admissions in high school with uniform student in row seat School classroom of Thailand,

Seventy-two percent of pupils at Avonside Girls' High School and just under 40 percent of students at Shirley Boy's High School completed the survey. (file photo) Photo: 123RF

Warning: This story contains details of sexual abuse.

A survey of pupils at two single sex secondary schools in Christchurch has found they are being sexually harassed at school, online, or when socialising outside school grounds.

Former MP and education researcher Dr Liz Gordon canvassed the views of pupils at Avonside Girls' High School and Shirley Boys' High School in two separate surveys.

In the girls' survey, a total of 21 instances of sexual assault of rape or near-rape are described amid widespread reported sexual harassment.

Seventy-two percent of pupils at Avonside Girls completed the survey.

The executive summary states harassment included "verbal, spatial, written and physical or sexual contact".

"On average, participants had been harassed more than 10 times in their lifetime and experienced more than four types of harassment."

Participants were asked to provide information on the 'worst' incident of sexual harassment they had experienced.

The report said a small number of participants reported being raped on more than one occasion, including "multiple times for two months when I was 13" and "many times raped and assaulted".

Sexual assault within the family was mentioned by 26 participants as the worst incident.

Online harassment, cat calling, harassment at part-time jobs and on public transport were outlined.

The report said 70 percent of participants did not seek help or support when they were harassed.

In the first two terms of 2022, 379 participants reported 2650 incidents of sexual harassment, or seven per student who had experienced harassment.

The survey findings were released by the schools on Wednesday.

It follows a survey conducted at Christchurch Girls' High School more than 12 months ago, which uncovered widespread sexual harassment outside the school, including 20 cases of rape by individuals or groups.

The survey revealed 60 percent had been harassed including groping or verbal abuse.

Avonside Girls' High School principal Catherine Law said most cases were outside the school grounds, including "on public transport, around town, on social media and while out socialising",

"My heart goes out to all the victims, but at least we now know what we are dealing with and can start taking action to deal with it," she said.

"For example, there is a clear need to stop the apparent code of silence and bring sexual harassment into the open.

"We also need to create a safe space where our students can get support confidentially."

The initial response at Shirley Boy's High was 54 percent but this figure was scaled down to just under 40 percent, due to doubts over the integrity of the data.

Just under 20 percent of those reported had experienced sexual harassment, although about double that number knew of people who had been sexually harassed.

The survey highlights an "anti-gay culture at Shirley Boys' High School", a factor for some of the stated reasons for harassment.

"Most of the worst incidents described included physical acts including sex without consent.

"A number of students were subject to attacks related to perceived sexuality."

Unlike the Avonside survey, the majority of events took place on school grounds.

Shirley Boys' High School principal Tim Grocott said there needed to be more education on what sexual harassment was and the impact it had.

"While some of the findings were difficult to hear, it's information we now know that we can act on," he said.

"That's exactly why we commissioned the survey."

Where to get help:

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): 04 801 6655 - push 0 at the menu

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

Male Survivors Aotearoa

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