Roast Busters: Girls hit back with online campaigns

By Heather McCracken, Anna Leask

One Facebook page heavily critical of Avondale College while another wants justice for victims and to provide support for young girls.

Police Commissioner Peter Marshall talks to Police Minister Anne Tolley as she leaves the Auckland metropolitan police bravery awards yesterday. Photo / Richard Robinson
Police Commissioner Peter Marshall talks to Police Minister Anne Tolley as she leaves the Auckland metropolitan police bravery awards yesterday. Photo / Richard Robinson

Young women are striking back against the Roast Busters Facebook gang in a bid to support alleged victims and stand up to what they say is a lack of action against rape culture.

Several Facebook pages appeared online yesterday and quickly had the support of thousands of young people around the country.

A page purporting to be the original Roast Busters returning to Facebook has also appeared.

The first anti-Roast Busters page, SOS: Support Our Survivors, was heavily critical of Avondale College, which it says many of those involved attended, and published a fiery open letter to the school, saying it could no longer remain silent.

Avondale College issued a statement saying they were "saddened and shocked by the incorrect and totally unjustifiable allegation made against the College".

"The College is unable to comment on any specific concerns that have been expressed to it, because this would breach our confidentiality obligations, and possibly identify those that have approached us in confidence," the statement said.

"The community can be assured, however, that on any occasion that a complaint or concern has been expressed by a student, we have acted upon it promptly, providing support and protection for that student, and where appropriate, we have involved the authorities, including the Police or CYFS.

"Avondale College completely rejects any suggestion that we have a permissive culture at the College, or that the College in any way condones; conduct, speech, or behaviour that is unacceptable or that encourages offending of any nature against any students or others."

A second Facebook page, attacking the Roast Busters members, was set up by Jade Schutte, 16, and Ash Hilton, 18, who felt girls needed somewhere to turn for help.

Jade Schutte (left) and Ash Hilton have set up a Facebook page. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Jade Schutte (left) and Ash Hilton have set up a Facebook page. Photo / Jason Oxenham

The pair said they wanted justice for the victims, and to provide support for young girls.

But they said that unlike other web pages calling for revenge, they weren't trying to target the boys involved.

"We're not using it to create violence or create hatred," Jade said. "We're just doing something that we believe needs to be done."

One of the women behind the SOS page said the group had about 20 members, some of whom had recently graduated and others who were current students. They didn't want to be named.

She said they were yet speak to principal Brent Lewis, but hoped to sit down with him and discuss their concerns.

The open letter says the sexual education curriculum at Avondale College was deficient and failed to provide discussions on issues of consent and discussions around alcohol, as well as information on how to get help.

In a strongly worded statement, it said its founders had negative experiences at Avondale College, through things like flippant discussions of sexual violence.

Commenters were divided, with one saying she respected the message but never had a bad experience at Avondale College and the school could not be held responsible for the actions of past students. But another said it needed to be said, "and it's a damn shame it does".

Since Monday, Mr Lewis and the board of trustees chairman, Kevin Glubb, have refused to speak about the school's connection to Roast Busters and the victims.

On Sunday, 3 News revealed the presence of an online group called Roast Busters boasting of group sex with underage girls.

Subsequently, it emerged that two boys, Beraiah Hales and Joseph Parker, had appeared in videos talking about it.

Police Superintendent Bill Searle said this week that a police officer's son, who the Weekend Herald has since confirmed is Tristan Burrow, was involved with inquiries in 2011 but not subsequently.

He said "the officer concerned", now known to be Constable Craig Burrow of Auckland Central, had no involvement with the Roast Busters investigation.

"I can confirm there was an officer's son involved at an early stage, but he hasn't been involved for some time."

Detective Superintendent Andy Lovelock, brought in to cast a fresh set of eyes over the investigation after the fallout this week over the botched handling of the media coverage, implied police were keeping a close eye on social media.

"We are aware of several 'Roast Busters' Facebook pages that are currently accessible on the internet and have requested that Facebook shut them down," he said.

The investigation was ongoing and the Independent Police Complaints Authority was also looking into the way the case had been handled to date, a review directly requested by Police Minister Anne Tolley.

Mr Lovelock would not be drawn on any of the specifics of the investigation.

- NZ Herald

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