Monday, August 4, 2014

Sexual Abuse Prevention Blog - A focus on New Zealand

Introduction to the NEW Prevention Blog Series

What is your answer to the question, “What do you do for work?”  ATSA’s Prevention Committee hopes that your response is something like… “I work to prevent sexual violence.”  And if that person asks for more information, you can let them know that you care deeply about keeping communities, children and other vulnerable populations safe, so you have chosen to work with adults, adolescents and/or children who abuse.
ATSA’s Prevention Committee has reached out to the membership to uncover the unique collaborations that ATSA members are forming in their communities and explore what ATSA members are doing to prevent the first time perpetration of sexual violence.  In this first interview, the conversation created even deeper collaborations (e.g., Gwen Willis was invited to become a part of the organization’s board of directors).
As you read the blogs in this prevention series, we hope you will be as inspired as we have been by the work that ATSA members are doing in the world.  And if you are doing primary prevention in your community – working to prevent first time perpetration of sexual abuse – or know of an ATSA member who is doing this important work, please let us know.  You can reach us through ATSA at

ATSA members truly do have a unique perspective to offer.    

Joan Tabachnick and Karen Baker [Co-chairs of ATSA’s Prevention Committee]

Sex ‘n’ Respect: Prevention in New Zealand

“Consent is sexy, because it means both people are into it.”  That’s one of the many messages being delivered to thousands of New Zealand young people through Rape Prevention Education’s (RPE) sexual violence prevention programs.  While the majority of ATSA members’ work focuses on preventing repeat sexual violence, many members share a commitment to preventing sexual abuse before an offence is perpetrated.  This post is the first in a series from ATSA Prevention Committee members to showcase different prevention initiatives around the world. 
I recently met with Dr. Kim McGregor, Executive Director of RPE and some of her staff to learn more.  RPE is an Auckland based organisation with national prominence for prevention activities which include education and health promotion programs as well as catchy print and online media materials.  Delivered by a team of passionate professionals, many with a background in health promotion, theatre and/or survivors themselves, Sex ‘n’ Respect and BodySafe are examples of prevention in action in New Zealand.

BodySafe (ages 13 – 16) and Sex ‘n’ Respect (ages 16 – 18) comprise of a series of one-hour workshops delivered in high schools which share the motto of working with young people to promote respectful sexual relationships and prevent sexual violence.  Both programs utilise a mixture of discussion, stories, scenarios (e.g., about what is/isn’t sexual violence), worksheets, art and videos, with the content tailored to developmental level.

BodySafe focuses on educating students about consent using four steps: ask, listen, respect, reflect; and building participants’ confidence to negotiate consent in sexual situations.  In addition, BodySafe includes content about how to support people after sexual violence has occurred, exploring healing strategies, and developing bystander intervention skills.  Elements particularly well received by students include the use of role plays and scenarios.  The following quotation comes from a focus group ran as part of an external evaluation of BodySafe  (Dickinson, Carroll, Kaiwai, & Gregory, 2010, p. 43):

“The thing that really stands out for me was like the scenarios and we got to say what we thought of them, if it was rape or just sex”

A post program survey of 1104 students from ten schools found that 93% of participants were able to describe the legal definition of consent and 85% were able to describe what constitutes sexual violence.  When asked if BodySafe had changed the way students thought/acted in situations where they might be at risk, 48% responded “very much” or “extremely” (vs. 45% “moderately” or “a little” and 7% “not at all”; Dickinson et al., 2010).

Tailored towards senior high school students, Sex ‘n’ Respect includes workshops on consent and alcohol, gender stereotypes, and ethical action at parties – for example, identifying rights and responsibilities at parties and risk and safety management in social settings.  While RPE is clear that they do not support underage drinking and drug use, they recognize that both are common among young people in New Zealand.  A pre/post program survey administered to 250 students as part of an internal evaluation found decreases in rape supportive attitudes and significantly more students in the “action” stage of change (based on the Transtheoretical Model; see Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross, 1992) following program participation (Rape Prevention Education, 2012).

Consistent with US statistics, in New Zealand at least one in four females and one in eight males will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime, many before the age of 16 (Fanslow, Robinson, Crengle, & Perese, 2007; Fleming et al., 2007; van Roode, Dickson, Herbison, & Paul, 2009).  The high prevalence rates of sexual violence underscore an urgent need to prioritize sexual violence prevention in relevant social, health, and educational policy and ensure sufficient funding is allocated to the development and dissemination of effective sexual violence primary prevention activities.  While “what works” research in primary prevention of sexual violence is scarce, BodySafe and Sex ‘n’ Respect adhere well to principles of effective prevention programs identified in other fields (see Nation et al., 2003).  Perhaps most evident was a focus on fostering healthy, positive sexuality and relationships and attending to the developmental stages of different year groups.  For further information see and

Gwenda M. Willis, Ph.D., PGDipClinPsyc


Dickinson, P., Carroll, P., Kaiwai, H., & Gregory, A. (2010). BodySafe Programme Evaluation Report. Auckland: Massey University.

Fanslow, J. L., Robinson, E. M., Crengle, S., & Perese, L. (2007). Prevalence of child sexual abuse reported by a cross-sectional sample of New Zealand women. Child Abuse and Neglect, 31, 935-945. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2007.02.009

Fleming, T., Watson, P., Robinson, E. M., Ameratunga, S., Dixon, R., Clark, T., & Crengle, S. (2007). Violence and New Zealand Young People: Findings of Youth2000 - A National Secondary School Youth Health and Wellbeing Survey. Auckland: The University of Auckland.

Nation, M., Crusto, C., Wandersman, A., Kumpfer, K. L., Seybolt, D., Morrissey-Kane, E., & Davino, K. (2003). What works in prevention: Principles of effective prevention programs. American Psychologist, 58, 449-456. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.58.6-7.449

Prochaska, J. O., DiClemente, C. C., & Norcross, J. C. (1992). In search of how people change: Applications to addictive behaviours. American Psychologist, 47, 1102-1114. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.47.9.1102

Rape Prevention Education. (2012). Sex "n" Respect Parties Programme: Formative and Outcome Evaluation Report. Auckland: Rape Prevention Education.

van Roode, T., Dickson, N., Herbison, P., & Paul, C. (2009). Child sexual abuse and persistence of risky sexual behaviors and negative sexual outcomes over adulthood: Findings from a birth cohort. Child Abuse & Neglect, 33, 161-172. doi:

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