skip to main content

Chief Censor publishes research about sexual violence in media

30 November 2016

Teenagers think that inaccurate depictions or misrepresentations of sexual violence in entertainment media are potentially harmful. Harms identified included normalisation, perpetuation of harmful stereotypes, negative impacts on victim/survivors, and being negatively influenced by behaviour seen on screen.

These are some of the findings detailed in Young New Zealanders Viewing Sexual Violence, the latest research report from the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

Given that there is real concern in New Zealand about sexual violence in wider society, it is perhaps surprising that to-date there had been no New Zealand research asking young people about their views of sexual violence in entertainment media such as movies, TV shows and games.

The report is based on focus groups conducted with teenagers from Auckland and Wellington, undertaken by Colmar Brunton. It represents the first part of a research and consultation project exploring the effects – particularly on young people – of viewing sexual violence in entertainment media. The project also explores the impact on the wider community, and builds on international research showing that repeated exposure to violent entertainment content can have significant negative effects on young people.

Project leader Lexie Kirkconnell-Kawana says that the findings will inform the classification of sexual violence depictions in New Zealand.

“We hope the results of our own research translate into meaningful policy and action to improve the lives of New Zealanders, particularly in how they engage with entertainment media. We also hope the results encourage future (much needed) research on this subject both nationally and internationally.

The results so far suggest that it is not a question of if depictions of sexual violence are shaping young people's understandings of sexual violence, but how they are shaping young people's understandings.”

Chief Censor Andrew Jack says some of the findings are hardly surprising.

“We know that the development of children and young people is heavily influenced by their environment and the modern reality is that media is a large part of their environment.

The research shows that young people want more and better information rather than less when making viewing choices.”

The wider project involves specialists in the field of sexual violence prevention, treatment and education (including front-line victim/survivor counsellors) and academics and officials with expertise in sexual violence. Preliminary findings reveal a high degree of concern about the nature of entertainment content being made available in New Zealand, and participants agreed that young people’s unfettered access to material was a pressing issue in the provision of their services. A full report on these consultations will be published in due course.

Read a summary of the research and download the full report

For information about the research, and for interview requests, please contact:

Henry Talbot
Senior Advisor
Office of Film and Literature Classification
04 471 6788