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Classification Office to consult with community about sexual violence in entertainment media

06 July 2016

How are young people affected by depictions of sexual violence in entertainment media? What are the potential harms? What do young people think 'sexual violence' is?

Classification Office sexual violence research project leader Lexie Kirkconnell-Kawana is interviewed on TVNZ's Breakfast show on 11 July, 2016.

These and other questions are being asked in an extensive consultation process with young New Zealanders, carried out by the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

This forms part of a wider research and consultation programme the Classification Office is conducting to assist them when classifying movies, television shows (on DVD and online) and video games. It will also serve to respond to the wider NZ public discourse regarding the harms and impacts of sexual violence on our community.

The first part of the qualitative research involved focus groups with teenagers, conducted by Colmar Brunton. A report on the findings from this initial survey is expected to be released in the coming months.*

In addition, the Classification Office is conducting individual interviews with young people of different ages and backgrounds from all over New Zealand. The interviews will take place throughout a 12-month period.

The Classification Office also plans to consult with social workers, teachers, and community organisations working with young people — along with academics and other experts.

Project leader Lexie Kirkconnell-Kawana says that the findings will inform the Classification Unit when making decisions on appropriate restrictions and warnings for particular depictions of sexual violence.

We're also wanting to find out the sorts of things in entertainment media that might mitigate these impacts and harms. Can certain depictions of sexual violence be positive or empowering for young people?

The impact on young people of sexual violence in entertainment media has not been well documented so we are very keen to share our findings with other groups and organisations working in the field of sexual violence awareness and prevention.

Chief Censor Andrew Jack explains that the Classification Office takes into account academic research for the purposes of classification, however it is just as important to understand the public's views about the potential harms of certain material and how that material should be classified.

In this way we can best serve the public good by providing guidance about, and protection from, harmful content — as identified by New Zealanders. As with people in other countries, we have our own views about what might or might not be harmful, and our national classification system allows these views to be heard.

A snapshot of youth voices

These two young people were interviewed as part of the Classification Office's wider ongoing consultation with young people.

Ariana, 17, Rotorua

Oldest in a family of three siblings. Two younger brothers. Lives close to the family marae. Attends a decile 3 school. Interests include kapa haka, waka ama, basketball. Aspires to join the army.

I remember when my friend and I watched Hostel [classified R18]. We knew it was a horror but we weren't really prepared for it. Like, I totally freaked and it took me a long time to forget about it. A lot of my friends act all hard ass though. Especially the, they just think that's normal or something. And then they sort of like, compete to see who can come up with the sickest's kind of dumb, you know.

Cody, 16, Whanganui

Cody has just left school to work as a farm hand. He is mainly interested in "dirt bikes, V8s, graffiti art, and girls."

...It's only the movies. It's not real. You’d have to be daft to think it's real. Like Human Centipede [classified R18]...that was just stupid. My girlfriend literally threw up when she watched that. It was funny just watching her.

Research overview

* Depictions of sexual violence focus group research. Colmar Brunton held four 2-hour focus group sessions with teenagers in February – the sessions with girls/young women were held in Wellington and the sessions with boys/young men were held in Auckland. The participants were split into younger (14-15 y/o) and older (16-17 y/o) groups. The older girls/young women group had 7 participants, the other groups had 8 participants. Colmar Brunton was assisted by Wellington’s Sexual Abuse Prevention Network (SAPN) and Auckland’s Rape Prevention Education (RPE). Colmar Brunton also conducted a supplementary interview (in Wellington in June) with two 16 year old boys with assistance from a Classification Office staff member. The Classification Office was provided transcripts of the focus groups and will be producing a report in-house in the coming months.

Download our discussion document: Young New Zealanders Viewing Sexual Violence (PDF, 835KB) for people and organisations wishing to contribute to the research.

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