Christchurch Girls High School Principle Christine O'Neill
Christchurch Girls High School Principle Christine O'Neill

Christine O'Neill: 20 students at prestigious Christchurch girls school say they have been raped

Danny and Leah 28/06/2021

A survey commissioned by Christchurch Girls’ High School / Te Kura o Hine Waiora, has revealed concerning trends related to how young women and the rainbow community are dealing with sexual harassment.

School Principal, Christine O’Neill, says the results have been released to staff and students in an assembly this morning, with parents receiving a letter to keep them informed.

“I commissioned this survey on sexual harassment following concerns being raised by our students”, she says.

“It was clear we needed to know what was actually happening, how prevalent it was and how our young women and rainbow community deal with it,” she says.

“The number of incidents as well as the lack of reporting and the fact that our students have normalised this totally unacceptable behaviour, are all very concerning.”

Ms O’Neill says additional support has been put in place at the school today for both staff and students as she expects the survey results will be triggering for some. “The safety and wellbeing of our staff and students are our number one priorities.

In fact, that is why we commissioned this survey. Everyone has a right to feel safe and clearly they don’t. We would encourage parents and caregivers to talk to their teen, start a conversation. They need our support and involvement.” Researcher, Liz Gordon who undertook the survey work, says more work must be done to establish how young people around the country are experiencing and dealing with sexual harassment.

“We know that victims hold on to the trauma related to sexual abuse for 50-60 years. It is not OK that so many of our young people, or indeed anyone sees sexual harassment as part of everyday life,” she says. “The prevalence of sexual assault and harassment and the lack of reporting should also be of major concern to everyone.” There are many similarities between what the CGHS survey has found and what was reported in a report from OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) in the UK earlier this month. Liz Gordon says this suggests a worrying global societal pattern.

“Also mirrored in our survey is the way our young people change their lives to manage the sexual harassment. This includes dressing in baggy clothing to hide their bodies, travelling different routes to avoid harassers and changing their social lives to reduce potential interactions with harassers,” she says.

CGHS Head Girl, Amiria Tikao, says she is not surprised by the survey results as she and her peers live with sexual harassment every day – and have for years. “I am sorry to say this is not a surprise. I think adults are likely to find it more shocking than we do. What we need to do now is work with our students to support them to manage issues they may be dealing with and empower everyone, everywhere to call this kind of behaviour out,” she says.

CGHS Principal Christine O'Neill & Head Girl Amiria Tikao
CGHS Principal Christine O'Neill & Head Girl Amiria Tikao

Christine O’Neill says she is immensely proud of all the students who took part in the survey as it takes courage and strength to share such personal, and in some of the cases, very confronting experiences. 

Listen to Danny & Leah's full interview with principle Christine O’Neill above, and tune in every weekday from midday on Magic Talk.