ED's Letter

December 2013


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Since news of the Roast Busters scandal broke, there have been new threads emerging on an almost daily basis. Anguish and criticism has spilled over onto the police, radio talkshow hosts, and schools. But people’s disgust is generally directed at the handful of deplorable young men at the heart of this story.

It has brought rape and all its ugliness not only into the stark glare of the media spotlight, but also into political discussions. Prime Minister John Key says rape prevention education could be on the cards, but it is not so straightforward when it comes to deciding what can and cannot be taught in schools.

It’s hard to know where to draw the line between whose responsibility it is to discuss such issues. By bringing more information, attention, and debate into the classroom on a subject as sensitive and significant as rape, would schools be trespassing into conversations that should remain with parents?

There is a large camp of parents who feel that the more awareness, the better; there are others who are horrified at not being the ones to lead such discussions; there are yet others who think schools should be steering well clear of things which happen outside of school hours. Whose responsibility is it?

I recently visited a classroom that participated in Child Matters’ ‘Buddy Day’, which involved Year 7 and 8 students creating ‘buddies’ – cardboard cut-out 3D children – that were then distributed to local workplaces in an effort to generate discussion and awareness of the prevalence of child abuse.

The buddy-making fitted nicely into the class’s ‘keeping ourselves safe’ module, a nationwide child protection education programme rolled out by the New Zealand Police. The programme starts from Year 0, covering things such as saying no and getting help, right through to Year 13, where it addresses sexual harassment, cyber safety, and domestic violence, among other topics.

Teachers I have spoken with say they feel well-equipped to deliver the programme, thanks to the advice from the police, the professional development available and support from parents. It seems there is already a good platform in schools for discussing these issues and many feel the scope could be broadened to discuss rape and rape prevention in more depth.

The Buddy Day initiative, by bringing the student-made buddies into the community, is all about showing that child abuse is everyone’s problem. Discussion and awareness about rape deserves the same treatment - it is everyone’s responsibility; there can be no passing the buck.

Jude Barback, editor


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