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Billingsley reminds us that sexual abuse can be prevented

Billingsley reminds us that rape and sexual abuse can be prevented

Tania Billingsley’s choice to have name suppression lifted and to talk about the wider issue of rape culture that facilitated her assault has highlighted the prevalence of sexual violence in New Zealand and reminds us that it can be prevented.

Yesterday, Minister for Sexual Violence, Paula Bennett responded to Billingsley, agreeing that New Zealand does have a rape culture and stating the importance of education to challenge this: "You can see it in the language that is used by some people. You can certainly see it in pretty much a pub or a nightclub in New Zealand on most weekends to be quite frank. So we have a lot of education to do there, I think".

In New Zealand, it is estimated that 29% of women and 9% of men report unwanted and distressing sexual contact in their lifetimes.

Coordinator for Sexual Abuse Prevention Network, Fiona McNamara, says “We can prevent sexual abuse in our society by challenging the beliefs, attitudes and cultures that support it and by teaching people skills to engage in alternatives to sexual violence such as safe, equal and healthy sexual relationships.”

Sexual violence prevention needs to be a priority in schools.

Sexual Abuse Prevention Networks delivers a range of prevention programmes in schools in Wellington. The Network is able to reach one year group in 3-6 schools per year with the current amount of funding it receives from Government.

Alcohol is a major risk factor for sexual violence.

At least half of all sexual violence incidents in New Zealand involve alcohol. “People working in venues where alcohol is served are in an ideal position to prevent sexual abuse” says McNamara. “We run a programme tailored for hospitality and security staff.” Sexual Abuse Prevention Network is part of the “Who Are You?” Collaboration that is currently leading a project to establish a Wellington Safer Bars Alliance – a network of bars where staff are trained to intervene to prevent sexual assault.

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