By Anna Murray
Warning: This article discusses sexual assault
When Liv McClymont saw the news about the sexual harassment surveys at Christchurch’s Avonside Girls’ High and Shirley Boys’ High last year, it triggered a lot of old emotions for her.
Avonside was where McClymont went to high school and the stories the students were sharing about sexual assault and harassment sounded all too familiar.
She was inspired to film the short documentary I Stand For Consent about the students’ experiences and the need for consent education in Aotearoa.
She spoke to Re: News about why everyone should be learning about consent.
When the Avonside and Shirley surveys came out, it evoked emotions in me.
I was thinking about all of these experiences that I had when I was at high school and how awful it is that this is obviously still happening.
I also noted that the media outlets described the news as shocking. To me, it wasn't a shock.
This was the sort of behaviour that existed when I went to high school over 10 years ago and was widely discussed amongst my peers as being the norm.
But what really inspired me to make this film was the fact that these students, these young people, were asking for change in that space and they were leading it themselves.
When I read further into the survey, they were asking for this consent education, they wanted more education in their schools and in their communities so that they could tackle this normalisation of sexual harassment.
The first line in the film is: “My name is Liv and I’ve been sexually harassed more times than I can count.”
The first time I was ever sexually harassed would have been when I was maybe 11 or 12 years old. Since then, I would say sexual harassment has been something that is a regular occurrence in my life.
There were a number of coming of age or rite of passage moments that involve sex, and often because we didn't have this education of consent when I was growing up, those experiences were really dangerous and ended up being really traumatic for most people.
But the harassment was everywhere. It wasn't just high school students. It was adults, it was people on buses.
I think I ended up in some of my first sexual encounters not really knowing that I could say no in situations or feeling empowered to say no or to say “I don't want to”.
It's only really been as I've become an adult that I've really understood why those experiences have stayed with me and made me feel so uncomfortable. It's because I didn't ever give my consent in those experiences.
I think consent education should be compulsory for a variety of reasons.
At the moment, we don't have any sort of base understanding of this across the board.
I think it's something that all people need to understand and feel empowered to know.
And we need to give all young people these tools so that when they are having their first sexual experiences, they have the tools to be able to set those boundaries in place for themselves and their bodies.
At the moment, some schools teach about consent and that's wonderful, but there's so many students who are missing out because their schools don't have the time or resources, or they won’t do it for religious reasons.
I think that everybody can agree that we should all be doing our best to reduce harm.
And I think consent education is a really tangible and achievable thing that we can all do and implement to reduce sexual harm.
Everybody deserves to have this education.
Everybody deserves to be respected, and to have that respect when it comes to their intimate relationships.
But I also hope that this film is something for survivors. I hope they come away from it realising that there's a community that backs them and that will always tell them this is not their fault.
I want people to know there is actually a way forward, because the sexual harm space can feel really hopeless.
I really wanted to try and find some hope in this space. I think that taking action and making change is such a healing thing for these people to be part of.
I hope that this film does spur some conversations in families, too.
I think consent education is not just something that can be taught at school; it needs to be a well-rounded approach. It needs to come from the school, from the community, from the family.
I know that this is a topic that can make people shy away.
But we need to listen to our young people. They're telling us they want this; they want help in this space and we really do need to listen to them.
As told to Re: News journalist Anna Murray. This interview has been edited for length.
I Stand For Consent is premiering online on World Sexual Health Day - September 4. The theme for this year’s World Sexual Health Day is consent.
Where to get help:
- 24 hour nationwide helpline Safe2Talk: 0800 044 334
- 24/7 helpline Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP: 04 801 6655
- RapeCrisis directory to services across the country: https://toah-nnest.org.nz/get-help/survivors/rape-crisis
- (Not for crisis support): For education programs around preventing sexual violence: RespectEd
- Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Aotearoa: www.malesurvivor.nz
- To report your experience to the police, call 111 or the non-emergency line 105
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“It was for the school's ego and our own egos more than anything.”