An Open Letter To Avondale College

Avondale College Auckland, motto Kohia nga taikaka (Seek the Heartwood) Wikipedia.

Avondale College Auckland, motto Kohia nga taikaka (Seek the Heartwood) Wikipedia.

We are reproducing here an open letter to Avondale College published by Support our Survivors.co.nz.

The group is  a “student-led organization created in support of the victims of the “Roastbusters” and to tackle rape culture in NZ, starting with Avondale College.” They may also be found at Facebook.com/supportoursurvivors.

An Open Letter to Avondale College

 “It is the right of every young person to feel safe at their school. We believe therefore that it is the job of the school to actively create a culture that ensures that this right is upheld. Following the recent media reportings of “Roast Busters”, a group largely composed of current and former Avondale students, we can no longer remain silent. As members of the Avondale College community and former students of the school we feel deeply affected by these events, having experienced Avondale as a regressive environment that does not challenge rape culture and issues associated with sexual violence.

We are also deeply concerned by the framing of this issue as perpetuated by the police, who have claimed that no victim has been “brave enough” to provide a statement. This is not an issue of a victim’s bravery but rather of the failure of these boys to respect consent and of the wider community and the legal system to provide a supportive environment for victims to speak out.

To talk about sexual violence and the responsibility of the victim in these terms is to directly contribute to the rape culture that we must challenge in order to stop such heinous acts occurring in the first place. Having been through the sexual education curriculum at Avondale College, we were not provided with information, education or opportunities for discussion concerning consent, especially in relation to alcohol and the processes to follow if you feel if you have been a victim of sexual assault. Contact details for specialist agencies that support victims, their friends and families were not provided. These are basic steps that the school can and should have taken to promote a safe environment. This could have included adopting a whole-school approach to sexual violence prevention including: staff training/professional development, school policies, respectful relationships curriculum, train the trainer, peer educator programmes and involving Rape Prevention Education. There is no reason for a student to feel isolated at school because they are concerned about these issues.

Because there is a lack of understanding and action taken by the school concerning these basic issues there is a perpetuation of rape culture amongst both the administration and the student body. This includes rape humour, flippant discussions of sexual violence, and victim-blaming and shaming, providing an incredibly unsafe environment for those who are survivors of sexual violence. This culture amongst the student body is institutionalized by the school administration to the point where a group such as “Roast Busters” has been able to exist since 2011, and students who perpetuate rape culture are put in positions of leadership and responsibility.

We understand that this isn’t an Avondale-specific problem, but rather is a systematic failure of New Zealand and wider modern society, however schools are the cornerstone for the social interactions of young people and we want to emphasize the culpability of the school administration who by their lack of action have allowed for such an appalling culture to exist.

There needs to be a frank and open discussion about these recent events and how they relate to wider cultural issues regarding sexual violence amongst students, staff and the wider community.

We would like to offer our support to those who have been affected by this and we hope with the community as a whole we can take steps to overturn institutionalized rape culture and begin the long and onerous journey of making school safe again. We request a response from the school administration on the ways it will engage with the wider school community about the issues we have raised and the actions it will take.”

ends.