New programme aims to keep youth safe

The Otepoti Collective Against Sexual Abuse team (from left) Meghan Hellyer, Calla Knudson...
The Otepoti Collective Against Sexual Abuse team (from left) Meghan Hellyer, Calla Knudson-Hollebon, Tanya Findlater, Kristen Haines, Hazel Potterton and Angelo Libeau. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Keeping young people safe from sexual exploitation is key for Otepoti Collective Against Sexual Abuse’s newest programme developer.

Kristen Haines is in the research and development stage of the sexual violence programme, which will be available to young people next year.

Originally from Canada, Miss Haines is studying for her master’s degree in social work and has previously studied human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

She wants young people to be aware of the "red flags and risk factors".

"My goal for the programme is really to frame it around how do you keep yourself safe, whether it’s online or offline, in terms of sexual exploitation because the risk is out there," Miss Haines said.

Educating people on what grooming and recruitment looked like was important, but it was essential to do it in the right way, she said.

It was no good "dumping" a bunch of statistics and facts on young people, she said.

"It’s a difficult conversation to have.

"Any sort of topic relating to sexual violence is going to be sensitive."

Instead, the programme would be framed around identifying risks, knowing what to look for, and how to keep yourself safe, she said.

Developing the programme allowed Miss Haines to share her expertise, but was also a good learning experience for her, she said.

Ocasa sexual violence prevention programme co-ordinator Hazel Potterton said the programme would be available to all young people in Otago, including at schools and youth groups.

Often, the most at-risk people were not involved in the school system, so it was important they had access to the programme, Ms Potterton said.

It was designed to operate alongside the Mates and Dates programme, which is now co-ordinated by Meghan Hellyer.

Ms Potterton was thrilled the team was expanding and they could provide more education to young people.


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