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Rape culture in the spotlight: A week to forget for Wellington schools

The Wireless logo The Wireless 10/03/2017

Two Wellington schools have made headlines this week for the wrong reasons.

An anti-rape protest sign. © Provided by Radio New Zealand Limited An anti-rape protest sign.
A protest sign against rape culture.

Photo: Creative Commons/Richard Potts

It was revealed on Tuesday that a student at Wellington College described having sex with drunk, passed-out women in a post to a closed Facebook group.

The comment was: “If you don't take advantage of a drunk girl, you're not a true Wc [Wellington College] boy”, while another student posted “fuck women”.

The posts, which were liked by other students, quickly came to the attention of parents, and then the school.

Meanwhile, at Upper Hutt school, St Patrick’s College, Silverstream, four Year 9 students were accused of inappropriately filming a female teacher and suspended.

Yesterday, the school’s rector, Gerard Tully, described the incident to RNZ as a “distressing incident of sexual harassment”.

A protest has been organised by students and was planned to take place outside Wellington College on Monday before school.

However, it had to be delayed until later that day and moved to outside Parliament after those taking part were threatened with violence.

“IDIOTIC BOYS CAN SAY THINGS THAT ARE VERY, VERY SAD”

Wellington College moved quickly on Tuesday to denounce the boys’ original Facebook comments.

Its principal, Roger Moses, told Checkpoint with John Campbell they were deplorable and the school was “obviously appalled and disgusted”.

However, he did temper that by defending the two boys, who haven’t been suspended.

“I think the boys are absolutely distraught about what has happened. I don't, in any way, want to minimise what was said, but at times there is bravado that can happen on these websites, and I think that is probably what has happened,” he said.

He said the school had no control over what was said in private groups online.

“We can say the right messages in assemblies, we can have the right programmes in place, we can push the right values, but at times, regrettably, in the privacy of these chat rooms that we don't have access to, idiotic boys can say things that are very, very sad, and that's what's happened on this occasion.”

The father of one of the boys told Stuff he and his wife were devastated by his behaviour.

“My greatest fear is that we don't bring up our kids well," the father said. "This is why this came as a bit of a shock for us, obviously we thought we were doing a better job than that.”

The following day - International Women’s Day - Tony Wright at Newshub wrote a scathing op-ed that said the comments were an example of rape culture.

“When I read this comment, I couldn't help but think about the Roast Busters scandal in 2013, when two young Auckland men were themselves 'busted' over gratuitous social media posts where they bragged about getting underage girls drunk before having sex with them,” he said.

A NZ Herald column called for a culture change at the school, while a Dominion Post editorial said schools need to show boys that rape "jokes" are intolerable, and “at present the system allows schools to dodge their responsibilities”.

SILVERSTREAM SCANDAL

On Thursday, the issue erupted again, this time at St Patrick’s College, Silverstream in Upper Hutt.

St Patrick's College © Provided by Radio New Zealand Limited St Patrick's College St Patrick's College, Silverstream.

Photo: Facebook/St Patrick's College Foundation

What exactly happened remains unclear, as the school has only confirmed the suspension of four Year 9 students for inappropriately filming two women teachers.

Images were posted on Instagram.

They now await the outcome of a hearing by the Catholic school’s board of trustees' discipline sub-committee.

Prime Minister, Bill English, who was head prefect at the school in 1979, also weighed in.

He said he was worried by both incidents at Wellington College and St Pat’s.

"There's always an element with people in their early teens of doing things that show bad judgement, because your judgement's not always good, but I think it's really important that those young people get a clear message that that kind of behaviour is unacceptable,” he said.

Meanwhile, Wellington Rape Crisis and the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network met with students at Wellington College yesterday afternoon.

Parents of students at Wellington College were sent an email by the school that promised it took the matter seriously, and reminded them of the perils of social media.

“You may have seen media coverage about two senior boys posting objectionable comments on Facebook," said principal Roger Moses.

"The school takes this extremely seriously. The comments made about young women in those posts were deplorable and appalling and do not reflect Wellington College values in any way."

WHAT NOW?

Mia Faiumu is a Year 13 student at Wellington College. She has organised a protest against rape culture outside the school on Monday morning.

Today, she told RNZ’s Morning Report it was a problem that didn’t just affect her school, but the whole country.

However, she has now had to move the protest to outside Parliament on Monday afternoon. She told RNZ many of the people involved were afraid for their safety.

“There was a lot of negative response from the boys at Wellington College who found out about it - there were posts (on social media) saying that they were going to show up in their cars and run us over,” she said.

"I think essentially they were joking, but they were jokingly threatening to incite violence if we were to go there and protest.

“A lot of boys at Wellington College don’t perceive this as much of a problem, and us as overreacting.”

Feedback to the interview was mixed. Some listeners texted their thoughts to Morning Report:

Hi guyon and Susie. If the girls are drunk and unconscious, isnt alcohol the real problem?

Girls need to take some responsibility and not be so eager to get boozed out of their brains at every opportunity.

Feminism is to blame.you will see more backlash especially from alpha males.

Wellington College’s principal, Roger Moses, responded to Mia Faiumu’s comments with a statement:

"We are working through a process with the boys involved and equally important with our wider school community.  We have met with Sexual Abuse Prevention to continue to strengthen our programmes designed to educate the boys about healthy relationships and consent,” he said.

"We understand and respect people's right to express their strongly held points of view. Our primary focus is on taking the events of the past few days, learning from them and continuing to support our boys to grow into responsible strong boys."

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