Rebecca Quilliam

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

Roast Busters: Over 63k call for PM to take action

Joseph Parker (left) and Beraiah Hales are members of the Roast Busters
Joseph Parker (left) and Beraiah Hales are members of the Roast Busters

More than 63,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the Prime Minister to take action over the Roast Busters.

John Key has been urged to "take sexual violence seriously" and ensure justice for the teenage girls - some as young as 13 - who were named and shamed on a Facebook page by the gang, who claimed to have got them drunk and had sex with them.

The petition was set up by Auckland mum Jessie Hume on Thursday, and now has more than 63,000 supporters.

Ms Hume said the girls had been failed by police, Government and the legal system.

"It's time to demand justice for these young women. It's time our Government ensured that protocols, including support services for people who are raped or assaulted, are in place so something like this doesn't happen again," she said on the site.

"Use your voice to help these young women whose voices are consistently being ignored."

The petition is headed: "Prime Minister John Key: bust the 'Roast Busters' and show you take sexual violence seriously."

The site joins sexual abuse support groups, anti-violence campaigners and health practitioners speaking out in support of victims and to condemn violence against females in the wake of the Roast Busters revelations.

Women's Refuge chief executive Heather Henare said it was "patently clear" a lot of work needed to be done to shift attitudes around women, rape, appropriate sexual relationships, violence and misogyny.

"The past few days have shown us that many segments of our society including within the Police and even within some media institutions have a dominant culture of victim blaming," she said.

The development manager for sexual violence survivor counselling organisation Help, Harriet Sewell, said the young women who were allegedly victims of the Roast Busters group had gone through the abuse twice, "both the alcohol facilitated sexual assault and then having it made visible for anyone to see".

Judge Peter Boshier, who chairs the anti-violence campaign White Ribbon said the misogynistic attitudes of the group of young men were "epidemic" in New Zealand.

"They result in the 3500 convictions against men for assaults on women and the ultimately cost the lives of 14 women a year who are killed by their partners or ex-partners."

While most men were not violent, most violence was perpetrated by men, Judge Boshier said.

"We know that one of the best ways to change behaviour is to change social norms. Right now, far too many people still think that violence is acceptable. And in too many cases, their friends and colleagues don't speak up.

"It is that silence that leads men to believe violence is okay. The Roast Buster group is an example of behaviour that was allowed to continue, drawing in other young men and encouraging further repugnant behaviour."

Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care deputy chairwoman Cathy Stephenson said about one in four New Zealand women would experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.

It was estimated that only 10 per cent of those affected would seek help.

"We would encourage anyone who has been sexually assaulted, young or old, male or female, to approach someone for help, regardless of whether they want the police involved or not," Dr Stephenson said.

This morning, Mr Key said he would look at changing the law to help people who laid rape complaints get justice.

He said if an investigation into how the Roast Busters was handled indicated the current laws needed updated then his Government "may well look at supporting that if that's the right thing to do".

"Absolutely we'll go down that path of looking at that," he told TV One's Breakfast.

"I said when I found out about this on Monday that it was very disturbing and abhorrent and I stand by those views. And actually whatever the legality of the position, about whether this was rape or not and whether the police prosecute or not, there's quite a different issue about the behaviour of the young men.

"We're talking about girls that are very fragile ages, talking about behaviour that's, in my view, totally unacceptable, and we need to try to deal with that.

"That's the bit of the law we're currently changing, which is essentially this is a form of online cyber bullying, so it's not that we don't want to change."

He said if the Independent Police Conduct Authority found that police investigating the Roast Busters failed to prosecute, then "there will be consequences", but if they find police did all they could, they "will at least understand that".

Meanwhile, police have been asked to investigate a website that claims to be exposing dozens of men who it says sought sex with a 14-year-old girl.

Thirty-nine men have been named and shamed on the website, some as recently as this week, prompting threats of violence against them.

- APNZ

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