Sexual violence, social media, students and schools - court decision, IPCA statement, media

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A number of reports of sexually abusive behaviour by school aged young men have been discussed in the media over the last few months. Comparisons have been made with the so-called "Roast Busters" group in Auckland. These have led to a statement by the Independent Police Conduct Authority, a court case and a Memorandum of Understanding being drafted between New Zealand Police and the Secondary Principals' Association of New Zealand.

The information on what has occurred and how many different cases there are is not always clear or complete, however links are provided below.

Social media 'competition'

The New Zealand Herald reported Secondary Principals' Association of New Zealand (SPANZ) executive member Patrick Walsh speaking out about sexually abusive behaviour in November 2015. Mr Walsh said "The boys had a competition where they would get young girls drunk and they would dangle their genitalia over their faces and take photos. The competition was how many girls you could get into those compromising photos." Media reported the young men were given warnings by Police. Patrick Walsh was quoted as saying "What they are doing is criminal and totally unacceptable. In my view they do need to be charged, convicted and a message [sent] to teenagers across the country that this is totally unacceptable."

Radio New Zealand reported Russell Smith, Co-Director of Korowai Tumanako as saying, "I think it needs more than just a warning. I think there needs to be some enforced mandatory counselling and then at least they're on the radar, and should those young people reoffend in future, you can be charged and they can bring that historical harm forward. ... We all know what happened with Roastbusters ... but I daresay that those boys may not have got any support around the harm they've caused."

IPCA statement

On 16 February 2016, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) issued a statement saying that the Police investigation into a matter "reportedly involving school-age students posting lewd photographs online" had been "thorough and robust." IPCA said it reviewed the Police investigation (which was carried out in September and October 2014 and concluded in December 2014) after receiving three complaints from members of the public. Chair Judge Sir David Carruthers said IPCA had found that the investigation was conducted in an "exemplary manner." The statement provides no information about what occurred or where - IPCA said it "will not comment on the specific details of this incident. However, it is in the public interest to note that some of the information previously reported by the media is not supported by fact, and comparisons with the 'Roastbusters' matter are not justified."

Opotiki cases - guilty pleas, discharged without conviction

In December 2015, media reported that five young men with links to Opotiki College had been charged with unlawful sexual conduct with six young women aged under 16. The five young men were aged 17 and 18 at the time of the offences and the young women aged 14 and 15. The men all plead guilty. On 31 March 2016, Judge Louis Bidois discharged the five men without conviction and permanently suppressed their identities, saying it would be too harsh a punishment for their offending. Media reported that all the sex was consensual and that one of the young women criticised the Police for prosecuting. The judge said "All of you are young men and most of that is human nature … The female young persons all seem to be robust Kiwi girls who are generous in their attitudes towards you."

A range of responses to the judge’s comments were reported in NZ Herald and Stuff articles and other media listed below. Dr Nicola Gavey from the University of Auckland has also blogged about the cases, writing "There is a lot we don’t know about the case – or more to the point, these cases. We don’t know – and neither should we – what went on between all of the girls and boys and what lead to charges being laid. But we do know some of what was said in the courtroom during sentencing. And it is troubling. There are so many contradictions, and they pose a real challenge to what we think we are doing to address sexual violence."

Other cases

In December 2015, Stuff reported that a group of Feilding High School students were found with naked photos of a female student on their phones. The image was reportedly originally sent to the victim's boyfriend but following a breakup he shared the photo with his friends. Some students were stood down as a result of the incident. Police investigated but no charges were laid. Feilding High School principal Roger Menzies called the boys predators and addressed the "widespread issue" with students at an assembly.

Stuff reported that Youthline national spokesperson Stephen Bell said the organisation was contacted six times between October and December 2015 about explicit images being shared, and that NetSafe operations manager Lee Chisholm said they received about one complaint a week. 

Memorandum of Understanding

Media reported that New Zealand Police and the Secondary Principals' Association of New Zealand are developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to provide clear guidelines for principals and police when managing offensive online behaviour by pupils. SPANZ Executive Member Patrick Walsh said "We were able to canvas on behalf of secondary school principals a range of issues that the police are now aware of. We're going to work collaboratively with them." Media reported that the MOU is in draft form and not publically available.

Sexual violence prevention advocates respond 

Sexual violence prevention advocates have highlighted how widespread issues are. Dr Kim McGregor said "Rather than stigmatise Opotiki or even West Auckland where the Roast Busters were, I think it's important the public know that probably every school in the country is dealing with sexual violence whether they know it or not. ... We know that young people don't usually report to counsellors or police, and often they don't report to their families first. Usually the first person they tell is their best friend. So we also have to educate our young people how to help a friend."

National Survivor Advocate Louise Nicholas said "Let's start being proactive instead of reactive. We need to be in our schools. It's not about saying don't drink, don't have sex or don't take drugs. We have to help them understand the repercussions." Ms Nicholas later again called for more education in schools.

General Manager of Sexual Abuse Prevention Network Fiona McNamara said "We need to be talking to young people about consent and healthy relationships and the same messages need to be reinforced by all parts of society, including schools, parents or caregivers, peers and popular culture. Young people are growing up in a culture in which forced sexual acts are normalised and this needs to change. We need to make healthy respectful sexual relationships the norm."

For support

Netsafe - an independent non-profit organisation whose purpose is to promote confident, safe, and responsible use of online technologies.

Sexual violence prevention and intervention services around Aotearoa New Zealand are listed on the TOAH-NNEST website.

Previous NZFVC news stories

Sexuality education in New Zealand schools

Revised guidelines on sexuality education in schools released (June 2015)

"Roast Busters" 

Report on CYF involvement in 'Roast Busters' cases released (December 2015)

'Roast Busters': IPCA report criticises Police, responses to the report (March 2015)

No charges laid: Responses to the 'Roast Busters' decision (November 2014)

Updates on the 'Roast Busters' (May 2014)

Responses to the 'Roast Busters' (November 2013)

Harmful Digital Communications Act

Harmful Digital Communications Bill passes into legislation (July 2015)
(includes links to New Zealand and international information, research and resources on cyberbullying, online abuse and digital stalking)

Further research and resources 

Sills, Sophie; Pickens, Chelsea; Beach, Karishma; Jones, Lloyd; Calder-Dawe, Octavia; Benton-Greig, Paulette; Gavey, Nicola. (2016).
Rape culture and social media: young critics and a feminist counterpublic
Feminist Media Studies, Advance online publication, 23 March 2016.
(In this New Zealand study, the authors interviewed seventeen young people who were critical of rape culture about their exposure and responses to it on social media and beyond.)

The New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse has previously collated research and resources on promoting healthy relationships for working with young people.

Media

How antiquated legal language undermines complainants in cases of sexual assault, The Conversation, 11.02.2019

Lizzie Marvelly: Roast Buster interview about ratings, not a matter of public interest, NZ Herald, 26.01.2019

Why are young women so angry right now? This is why, Opinion: Verity Johnson, Stuff, 25.01.2019

‘I’m still living it’: a Roast Busters survivor’s story, The Spinoff, 25.01.2019

Roastbusters resurfacing shows crucial need for consent education and restorative justice, Radio NZ, 23.01.2019

Victim advocate Ruth Money wants 'justice' dealt to Roast Buster leader Joseph Parker, Newshub, 23.01.2019

'Gross and wrong': Roast Buster victims slam ringleader Joseph Parker over song, Newshub, 22.01.2019

Roast Busters' victims shocked by Joseph Parker's comments, Stuff, 22.01.2019

Roast Busters' victims speak out on ringleader's new song referencing their experiences, Newshub, 22.01.2019

Why give Joseph Parker a voice?, Newshub, 22.01.2019

Roast Buster interview 're-traumatising victims', Radio NZ, 22.01.2019

Roast Buster ringleader ‘trying to make amends’ just started crowdfunding a music career, The Spinoff, 21.01.2019

Roast Busters' victims face further trauma from TV interview, says Louise Nicholas, Stuff, 21.01.2019

'Roast Busters' case drives calls for sexual violence court, Radion NZ, 15.04.2016

Judge correct in Opotiki teen decision, but changes require, Waikato Times, 05.04.2016

Opotiki underage sex case - is the age of consent OK? Stuff, 02.04.2016

Opotiki College underage teen sex case: 'I feel like we are being used', Rotorua Daily Post, 02.04.2016

Justice Minister Amy Adams says no to lowering the age of sexual consent, Bay of Plenty Times, 01.04.2016 

Judge on Opotiki five: 'We all make mistakes, the question is how big is the mistake?' NZ Herald, 01.04.2016

Underage sex 'human nature' – Judge, Otago Daily Times, 01.04.2016

Rachel Smalley: Should we lower the age of consent? NewstalkZB, 01.04.2016

Victim slams police over Opotiki sex case, Stuff, 31.03.2016

Men on underage sex charges to pay $500, Radio NZ, 31.03.2016

Police criticised over investigation into underage sex charges, NewstalkZB, 31.03.2016

Louise Nicholas: Opotiki underage sex case decision, NewstalkZB, 31.03.2016

No convictions for Opotiki five, NZ Herald, 31.03.2016

Agreement tackles students' misuse of social media, NZ Herald, 21.03.2016

Students' misuse of social media tackled, Otago Daily Times, 21.03.2016

Opotiki five all plead guilty to sex charges, NZ Herald, 04.02.2016

Opotiki sex accused plead guilty to charges, Stuff, 21.01.2016

Minister Needs to Front up on Roast Busters II – NZ First, Press Release: New Zealand First Party, 08.03.2016

Police investigation of Roastbusters-type pics 'robust and thorough': IPCA, Stuff, 16.02.2016

IPCA clears cops in 'Roastbusters 2' case, Otago Daily Time, 16.02.16

IPCA backs police warning for explicit images, Radio New Zealand, 15.02.2016

IPCA finds Police investigation robust, Press release: IPCA, Scoop, 16.02.2016

IPCA clears police in 'Roastbusters II' case, Newstalk ZB, 15.02.2016‎

Teens reappear on sex charges in Opotiki Court, Stuff, 17.12.2015 

Opotiki teens to appear in court on sex allegations, 3 News, 17.12.2015 

Sexually abusive behaviours in New Zealand secondary schools on the rise, Stuff, 16.12.2015 

Principal's predator tirade had the right intentions, Opinion: Jonathan Howe, Manawatu Standard, 15.12.2015

Manawatu principal calls boys predators after explicit images shared, Stuff, 15.12.15

Five teens remanded on bail over sex charges, Radio NZ, 03.12.2015 

Police have learned since Roastbusters case: Nicholas, NewsTalk ZB, 02.12.2015 

Five teenagers charged with sex offences, Radio NZ, 01.12.2015 

Five teens accused of sexual assault, SunLive, 01.12.2015 

Police and schools join to fight shocking posts, NZ Herald, 22.11.2015 

Police need to explain lack of further action on school boys, Catriona MacLennan, 15.11.2015 

Unhealthy sexual culture embedded, Otago Daily Times, 14.11.2015 

Teenagers need honest discussion, Wairarapa Times-Age, 13.11.2015 

Police response to Roastbusters-type case 'appropriate': Minister, NewsTalk ZB, 13.11.2015

"Breathless" reporting of school boy sexual assault allegations, NewsTalk ZB, 13.11.2015 

A Disgraceful Day in Parliament, NewsWorthy, 11.11.2015 

Lewd photos case 'thoroughly' investigated, 3 News, 13.11.2015  

Schools need to step up to deal with sexual assault - Louise Nicholas, Paul Henry, 09.11.2015 

Roast Busters Debate Refused, Press Release: NZ First, Scoop, 10.11.2015 

Support workers disappointed by police reaction to Roast Busters look-a-like case, Stuff, 09.11.2015

Culture change needed to stop sexual abuse, Press Release: Sexual Abuse Prevention Network, Scoop, 09.11.2015 

Police warning not enough - expert, Radio NZ, 09.11.2015 

Boys get only warning for posting explicit images, says association, Radio NZ, 08.11.2015

Herald on Sunday editorial: Young sex offenders need dose of reality, NZ Herald, 08.11.2015 

Warnings for Roast Busters II, NZ Herald, 08.11.2015 

Echoes of Roast Busters case as boys caught sharing pics of lewd acts online, Stuff, 08.11.2015 

Calls for tougher action on Roastbuster-like case, NewsTalk ZB, 08.11.2015 

Opotiki College case: Victims urged to come forward, Radio NZ, 02.09.2015 

School sex claims: Mayor 'not told', Rotorua Daily Post, 02.09.2015

Opotiki Mayor: It's not Roast Busters, 3 News, 02.09.2015 

Opotiki mayor not informed about school's sexual allegations, NZ Herald, 02.09.2015 

Sexual misconduct increases in schools, Stuff, 06.01.2015