Sunday, March 3, 2024

Wellington council launches sexual violence prevention plan

Wellington City Council has officially launched a Sexual Violence Prevention Roadmap and Action Plan after concerns were raised by local communities about safety in central Wellington in 2020.

Council says the plan aims to make the city safer and move closer to the goal of it being free of sexual violence. It also aims to remove any public fear of harm, the Council said in a statement. 

“While Council had been aware of the concerns from the community, what sparked this plan was a movement by the Wellington Alliance Against Sexual Violence – a coalition of youth-led organisations passionate about sexual violence prevention – which called for Wellington City Council and its partners (ie, HospitalityNZ) to prioritise and invest in sexual violence prevention,” it said.

An online student-led survey was also presented to Wellington City Council in April 2021. Of the survey’s 3,000 respondents, 90% experienced harm in the central city, with 61% reporting it was sexual in nature, the Council said.

In response to this, the Pōneke Promise was signed – a community-driven partnership working to make central Wellington safe, vibrant, and welcoming – working with organisations across Wellington city to deliver on four focus areas, one being harm reduction. From the Pōneke Promise, a role for a Sexual Violence Prevention Project Lead was created to address this mahi full-time.

Jahla Lawrence, who took on the project lead role, says the plan came about from working with community stakeholders, victims/survivors and sexual violence specialists.

Jahla Lawrence.

“We wanted to develop something that would be enduring and sustainable and based on evidence, rather than a bunch of one-off initiatives that aren’t impactful over a longer period of time,” she said.

“We work alongside communities and organisations to help move Pōneke towards being a safe, inclusive and welcoming place for everybody.”

While this work is based on a national strategy, Te Aorerekura, Council plays an important role in sexual violence prevention, says Ms Lawrence. 

Examples of posters developed alongside HELP Foundation and SafeToTalk.

“The Council can shape the social norms and culture of a city. We want to focus on primary prevention, working to create an environment in which sexual harm behaviours are prevented before they can develop.”

She said the Sexual Violence Prevention Roadmap has been designed to form a guide for Wellington City Council’s role in the wider sexual violence prevention movement in Pōneke.

“The roadmap is so members of the community can see what we’re doing and identify areas of collaboration. The Action Plan outlines the varying projects that have happened or are ongoing.”

“An example of what this work will look like is we brought on a community mobiliser to support community-based sexual violence prevention, and we are currently working with multiple partners; RespectEd Aotearoa, Take10, the Victoria University of Wellington Student Association and Thursdays in Black VUW to help support sexual violence prevention approaches for O-Week 2024.

“We are also running a positive sexual consent campaign in the central city, working with upcoming music festivals to help promote safety, and supporting our partners to deliver the Safer Venues Project, which aims at increasing sexual violence prevention capabilities in the hospitality industry.

“While the work is just getting started, it’s exciting to have a plan in place that will support us moving to a sexual harm free city,” said Ms Lawrence.

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