Silverline, a student-led mental health initiative, has been called out for saying a sexual violence prevention workshop was about “sex and relating”.
On Thursday September 16, student Kayli called attention on Twitter to a Facebook post by Silverline, promoting a Student Job Search ad. In the post, Silverline said Te Whare Tāwharau, the Uni’s Sexual Violence Support and Prevention Centre, were looking for “awesome human beings to join their whānau” as Peer Facilitators to run their Sexual Violence Prevention Workshops.
“We all know how messy and, let’s face it, straight up not ok O-Week can be. Especially for first years in Halls,” said the post. “If you are passionate about being part of shifting the culture around sex and relating then get amongst!!”
Kayli said that the post had “a number of concerning elements”.
“Firstly, the equation of a Te Whare Tāwharau workshop about consent and harm reduction to being about ‘sex and relating’. Conversations about sexual violence and sex are different conversations. Both are important conversations, but they are very different conversations. Sex is an act between consenting adults. Sexual violence is about power, and is an act of violence. For me, Silverline’s post was reductionist to both Te Whare Tāwharau’s workshop, and harmful to conversations about sexual violence.”
“Secondly,” she added, “I interpreted their post as describing sexual violence that may take place in O-Week as ‘messy’. Sexual violence isn’t ‘messy’ — it’s an act of violence. From my perspective, Silverline’s post minimised the act of sexual violence and the harm it causes to individuals and communities.”
Silverline posted a public apology on their Facebook and Instagram pages approximately a week after the post was made. They said that they "mistakenly used language which conflated the issues of sex and sexual violence and contributed to the culture of shying away from being real about the harm that exists. This language did not do justice to the issue nor the mahi of Te Whare Tāwharau and other sexual harm prevention and support spaces on and off campus."
They said that they were in talks with both Te Whare Tāwharau and Thursdays in Black Otago about how to improve their communications around sexual violence and are "committed to learning".
Silverline did not respond to Critic Te Arohi’s request for comment, leaving it on “read”. That’s twice we were ghosted this week. However, Kayli told Critic Te Arohi that since she made her comments on Twitter, Silverline had reached out to her to apologise for the wording of the post, and have taken it down. In addition, a meeting with someone from Silverline to discuss her concerns has been organised — leaving her “cautiously optimistic” that things could change for the better.
Updated on 28 September to reflect the fact that Silverline posted an apology on social media.