The subject of schoolboy behaviour is getting more attention every day, since the revelations from Wellington College on Tuesday. Not only from parents. Students themselves are showing concern – with plans for a protest at Parliament on Monday afternoon at 4.30.
The protest was first planned to be held outside Wellington College, but one of the organisers – a Year 13 student at Wellington East Girls College – said they changed the venue because of threats on social media. RadioNZ reported:
She said many people were afraid for their personal safety, and they made the decision to shift the planned protest to neutral ground. 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. I think essentially they were joking. But they were jokingly threatening to incite violence if we were to go there and protest.” She said it was a tough decision, but the protesters’ safety was the most important factor.
The DomPost reports that girls from three Wellington secondary schools are planning to join the protest, with 250 interested participants so far.
She said there was a need to open up a bigger conversation around consent and the normalisation of rape culture.
RadioNZ first reported on Tuesday that two Wellington College students had written on Facebook posts about having sex with intoxicated, passed-out women, with some of the comments “liked” by many more students. One of the comments said: “If you don’t take advantage of a drunk girl, you’re not a true WC boy.”
In response to the report, headmaster Roger Moses started an investigation and said the comments were deplorable and disgusting . In a message on the school website he said
The school will be working with Rape Crisis and other agencies to make sure that boys understand the meaning of consent and the importance of respect in relationships. The boys have been given a clear message that part of being a good man is respecting women.
But there’s a lot more work for the college to do – another RadioNZ report quotes a Wellington College student as making the shameful excuse that the social media comments were “just a joke.”
“I think it’s just a joke that’s been blown out of proportion really. Obviously it’s not a nice thing to say, but obviously there’s no intent in it, he obviously didn’t mean it.”
One day after the first reports from Wellington College, there were headlines from St Pat’s Silverstream. The DomPost reported:
Four year 9 students have been suspended … for a “most distressing incident of sexual harassment” towards two female staff members….St Pat’s Silverstream rector Gerard Tully confirmed the incident, which involved inappropriate filming of the women… The school’s priority was for the safety, support, and recovery of the staff members involved.
Sexual Abuse Prevention Network (SAPN) general manager Fiona McNamara, who has worked with year 9 and 10 boys at Wellington College for two years, said attitudes towards sexual violence needed a cultural overhaul.
What had happened at the two schools were not things that could be shrugged off as “boys will be boys”, or as an exception to the rule. “People doing or saying these things are a product of a society where this behaviour is normalised. I don’t think this is something we can be laughing at … we need to deal with it really seriously, and put a lot of energy into making sure it does not happen again.”
Tony Wright offers this bleak opinion on NewsHub:
Kiwis might not want to hear this, but rape culture is embedded in most of our high schools and universities – any student will tell you this…. our youth culture …promotes misogyny on a scale older New Zealanders perhaps cannot comprehend – or maybe it was around in their day and they’ve long since chosen to forget it.
He has more to say, about the sexual exploits of rugby stars. And answering his own question about “what should be done about the young Wellington College men at the centre of this latest scandal,” he responds:
Do everything that can be legally done to them – make them and their friends and all the other young men who are doing it start thinking seriously about the harm they are causing.
A more benign comment comes from Jessica Dellabarca, 20, who graduated from Wellington East Girls College in 2014. Quoted by The Wireless, she says:
Those kinds of comments were prevalent at parties and online. “It’s not something that pops up every now and then, it is something that happens every single day.” The focus should be on changing the culture that allowed boys to think the way they did was acceptable. “I think it’s important not to vilify these boys who made these comments, because they’re not villains, they’ve just been brought up in a culture that they think that’s okay. Rather than say ‘oh, that’s bad’, we need to focus on educating them and bringing them into a system where they know that’s not OK.”
“What it’s like for us”