Frances Cook is a Wellington based multimedia reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Culture change needed at Wellington College

Social media posts show Wellington College students discussing "taking advantage" of drunk women. Photo / Anthony Phelps.
Social media posts show Wellington College students discussing "taking advantage" of drunk women. Photo / Anthony Phelps.

Rape Crisis experts are heading into Wellington College today,saying a culture change is needed at the school.

The boys' high school launched an investigation, after students were caught making comments in a private Facebook group about "taking advantage" of women.

One comment said: "If you don't take advantage of a drunk girl, you're not a true WC [Wellington College] boy."

Another added "f*** women".

Experts from the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network (SAPN) and Rape Crisis will meet the school's leadership around lunch time. SAPN general manager Fiona McNamara said school staff would need help, not only to deal with this particular incident, but also to create the culture change that would stop such incidents occurring in the first place.

"It's horrible that this happened, but we know that this stuff is going on.

"It is really good when people get pulled up on it, because it means the school now has to do something to change the culture that is encouraging this kind of behaviour.

"I don't believe that this is an isolated incident, and I don't think it was just a couple of students.

"This is something that's really widespread and happening all throughout the school, whether it's hidden or is more visible."

Wellington College released a statement that said they want to address the issues that led to the behaviour. It said a Sexual Abuse Prevention team had been working in the school for more than a year.

"Their expertise and knowledge is a valuable part of our health education programme.

"We understand and respect people's right to express their strongly held points of view. Our primary focus is on taking the events of the past few days, learning from them and continuing to support our boys to grow into responsible strong boys."​

McNamara said the one silver lining was that other students had called out the behaviour, alerting the school and their parents.

The school had then contacted Rape Crisis and SAPN voluntarily, which she said was another hopeful sign.

"I have been a bit disappointed though, in the response that suggests it's just down to two boys, making one comment, in an isolated incident.

"I do not think that is the case.

"I really want to see the school take some responsibility for the culture in the school as a whole, and I'd love to see other schools take responsibility to make sure it isn't happening in their school."

SAPN already runs a programme through the school, talking about healthy relationships with Year 9 and 10 students.

That programme would continue this year, McNamara said, but they wanted to expand the programme to also work with older students.

"Especially those students in leadership roles.

"They can set an example about what positive behaviour is, and what's acceptable to say online."

McNamara said they would wait until after the meeting with school leadership, to decide whether to meet with the boys who made the comments.

A special assembly was held at Wellington College today, for all Year 11, 12, and 13 boys.

It was aimed at letting the students discuss any issues they had after the incident.

When news of the comments first broke, principal Roger Moses said they were "appalling".

He did not respond to requests to talk about today's meeting.

- NZ Herald

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