Knox experience inspired safety initiative

A former University of Otago student who claimed she was raped while at Knox College says her experiences inspired her to found an initiative which keeps people safe at festivals.

Olivia Montgomery, who attended the college in 2014, has had her own experiences - of a man breaking into her room and offering her oral sex, and weeks later, being raped - appear in a story on RNZ.

She is the founder of DeepSpace Festival Care, which is billed as ''a non-profit organisation founded in 2016 dedicated to providing a safe and supportive space for anyone having a difficult time at festivals''.

''It really pushed me to try and create change.''

The organisation had been to multiple commercial festivals around New Zealand, and focused on ''safer partying'', including education around drug use and, more recently, around sexual consent.

Ms Montgomery said a ''crazy'' number of people had contacted her after she put out an appeal on Facebook asking people to come forward after an investigation by student magazine Critic Te Arohi first broke.

However, they were reluctant to go public with their stories.

''They have just said they are not ready to speak out.''

It was depressing to read the stories which had appeared in Critic and in national media and to realise the problems had just ''continued and continued and continued'', she said.

Ms Montgomery said she let RNZ name her because she wanted to ''empower more survivors to come forward with their story and show even [people you wouldn't suspect] have been through this trauma at Knox''.

She recalled other people at the hall telling her stories about male residents who had snuck, naked, into their beds - but they never felt comfortable reporting the behaviour, and while they knew it was wrong, they usually talked about their experiences as though they were a joke.

Because of her experiences at Knox, Dunedin had ''never been a fun place for me to go'', Ms Montgomery said.

''I've always felt like so defeated.''

Her attempts to change the culture at Knox were unsuccessful, she said.

''It completely just destroyed me. I just couldn't bear university anymore.''

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