Let’s do better – let’s be better, so that all genders can be safe from sexual violence

Gender Equal NZ supports Hayley Young in speaking out about sexual harassment and rape.

National Council of Women of New Zealand President and Gender Equal NZ spokesperson Vanisa Dhiru says that Hayley’s story will resonate with many women in New Zealand.

New Zealand has the worst reported rates of sexual and domestic violence in the whole OECD says Vanisa. “With nearly 1 in 4 women experiencing sexual violence in their lifetime, we have a real problem in New Zealand.”

It takes real bravery to speak about sexual assault in a rape culture and we shouldn’t underestimate how difficult this can be. It’s awesome to see Hayley speaking out about this.

“We know too that only about one in ten people tell the Police if they are sexually assaulted, and then conviction rates after that are very low” says Vanisa. “These stats are horrific. And they speak to exactly the problem that Hayley has highlighted in her story: our culture, and what we think of as normal.”

“The good news is we can stop sexual violence – by stopping the people doing it, by stopping the people excusing it and by shifting the focus from victim blaming.”

New Zealanders will be familiar with what victim blaming sounds like, says Vanisa – “she was drinking with them at the work do, what did she expect” or “look at that chick in that skirt, she’s gagging for it” or “can’t you take a joke?”

This is what Hayley Young experienced. “It’s easy to think that banter is just banter, but I’ve experienced firsthand how small yet pervasive comments and jokes can change attitudes. They grow and allow people to be “cheekier” and to take it further, rather quickly men and women lose sight of what respect looks like and it’s a breeding ground for abuse. Shutting it down at the “banter” stage can make a huge impact, both in the workplace and in social settings” says Hayley.

With victim blaming comes shame, and this means fewer people report sexual assaults, which leads to fewer rapists being brought to justice and often horrible consequences for people trying to recover.

“We need to be putting the responsibility for the crime on the person who committed it and not on the person targeted” says Vanisa.

There are a range of ways that we can work to dismantle rape culture, says Vanisa. “For example, we can reject traditional gender stereotypes that put the responsibility and blame on the victim – and a violent interpretation of masculinity.”

“We can support consent education and practise affirmative consent ourselves. We can learn that not everything we see and read in the media is an accurate portrayal, and we can also speak up about our own experiences with sexual assault – like we’ve seen Hayley do.”

“And maybe most important of all, we can speak up to disrupt that everyday rape culture that we see around us. Call your mate out when they make a rape joke. Be the person who helps someone drunk get home safely. Tell your workmates if you can see them acting in inappropriate ways”.

Sexual violence and rape are some of the worst examples of gender inequality in New Zealand. Let’s do better – let’s be better, so that all genders can be safe from sexual violence.

More information on Hayley Young’s story here https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/98443248/officer-hayley-young-speaks-out-about-sexual-harassment-and-rape-in-nz-and-uk-navy

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