40 re­quests af­ter var­sity sex as­saults

Preven­tion work­shop up­take slow

Otago Daily Times - - DUNEDIN - ELENA MCPHEE elena.mcphee@odt.co.nz

MORE than 40 peo­ple have sought help from a new­lyestab­lished sup­port ser­vice for vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault at the Uni­ver­sity of Otago, one of the cen­tre co­or­di­na­tors says — but up­take of the cen­tre’s preven­tion pro­grammes has been slower than ex­pected.

Te Whare Tawha­rau, set up in May, pro­vides sup­port, in­for­ma­tion and ad­vo­cacy for vic­tims of both his­toric and re­cent sex­ual as­saults, and is the first such drop­in cen­tre at a New Zealand uni­ver­sity.

So­ci­ol­ogy, gen­der and so­cial work se­nior lec­turer Dr Me­lanie Beres, who is run­ning the aca­demic side of the cen­tre, said as well as of­fer­ing sup­port ser­vices the cen­tre had be­gun the roll­out of three sep­a­rate sex­ual as­sault preven­tion pro­grammes.

Ten workshops had been held across the three preven­tion pro­grammes and 11 out of the 15 res­i­den­tial col­leges for uni­ver­sity stu­dents had ex­pressed an in­ter­est in run­ning con­sent workshops.

‘‘We were hop­ing for more stu­dents, al­though it is not un­com­mon for new ini­tia­tives to take a lit­tle while to get off the ground,’’ Dr Beres said.

‘‘We have been con­duct­ing re­search with those who’ve taken a work­shop, and those who haven’t, to bet­ter un­der­stand what will draw stu­dents to the workshops, and will be us­ing this in­for­ma­tion as we move for­ward.’’

The con­sent workshops were peer­fa­cil­i­tated, and went through le­gal def­i­ni­tions of con­sent, dis­cus­sions of al­co­hol, and mis­un­der­stand­ings about sex­ual con­sent — in­clud­ing the mis­un­der­stand­ing mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion was a cause of vi­o­lence.

More than 40 stu­dents had come to Te Whare Tawha­rau seek­ing sup­port since the cen­tre opened.

‘‘Con­sid­er­ing this is the first cen­tre of its kind in New Zealand, it was dif­fi­cult to pre­dict de­mand, al­though it is con­sis­tent with de­mand in sim­i­lar in­sti­tu­tions in­ter­na­tion­ally,’’ Dr Beres said.

The cen­tre would con­tinue next year and was fur­ther de­vel­op­ing its sup­port and preven­tion ser­vices.

Po­lice records from Au­gust showed sex­ual as­saults in Dunedin were be­ing re­ported in record num­bers.

Rape Cri­sis Dunedin de­vel­op­ment co­or­di­na­tor An­gelo Libeau said MeToo and re­lated move­ments were likely to have con­trib­uted to the rise of sex­ual as­sault re­ports in Dunedin.

Me­lanie Beres

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