Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

ACC programme teaches teens about building healthy relationships

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

Teaching teenagers about how to develop healthy relationships in a bid avoid sexual violence is the aim of a pilot high school programme that is being funded by the Accident Compensation Corporation.

The programme is being developed with an Advisory Board, which includes Rape Prevention Education executive director Kim McGregor.

There were vast numbers of incidents of sexual violence against young people, and high school was the best place to start talking about it, she said.

"In any classroom we know there will be survivors of sexual violence," she said.

"We also know that because sexually harmful violent behaviour starts mostly in teen years, in any classroom we'll have people with sexually harmful behaviour."

"So we've got to address that."

ACC spokesman Glenn Donovan said the programme would provide teenagers with tools that would enable them to seek help if they were feeling unsafe.

"The key thing in this is preventing sexual violence ... we're talking about not being coerced into having sex."

The project would be targeting all years in secondary schools. That age group was the group most exposed to sexual and dating violence, Mr Donovan said.

The Roast Busters revelations last year had heightened awareness of being coerced into having sex. The programme was not sexual education, but a safety course, he said.

ACC Sexual Violence Injury Prevention Programme manager Sandra Dixon said the programme would be a success if there was an increase in young people knowing what healthy relationships were and what unhealthy relationships were.

"We (also) need to see a change in attitudes from attitudes that are likely to allow sexual and dating violence to be happening both in their own relationships and the relationships around them - so things like victim blaming - to a more protective set of attitudes," she said.

ACC Minister Judith Collins said encouraging a culture of respect was one of the most effective ways to help to prevent sexual and dating violence.

"This pilot programme will teach young people the value of having healthy relationships based on respect, negotiation and consent."

Family First director Bob McCoskrie said he would be writing to Ms Collins requesting that any programme be "pre-vetted" by a representative group of parents.

He would prefer the information come from parents rather than through schools, he said.

It was not yet known which schools the programme would be rolled out to.

Ms Dixon said the programme would pilot in the third term, to avoid the exam period in term 4.

***

By the numbers:

* in 2012/13, ACC spent $44 million on services for about 15,000 sensitive claims;

* about one-in-three to one-in-five girls is likely to be affected by sexual violence before their teen years;

* about one-in-six to one-in-10 boys is likely to be affected by sexual violence before their teens.

(Sources: ACC and Rape Prevention Education)

- APNZ

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