The Wellington End Rape Culture Now! protest was a passionate affair, fueled by the energy of over 1000 people and their determination to change an atrocious culture so engrained in New Zealand society.
Although the demonstration was in light of the gang-rape organisation‚Äîthe ‘Roast-Busters’, and the horrendous handling of it by Police, the purpose of the protest goes much further than that. Rape culture is the manifestation of normalized victim blaming, sexual harassment and trivialization of rape, issues that are incredibly harmful to women everywhere.
The demonstration was a way to address these issues and call for change. As we marched down Willis street there were chants, “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no mean no” and there were signs, “Because nobody is EVER ‘asking for it’.” As thousands clustered in Civic Square there were speeches from survivors, organizers and Wellington High School students, there were songs from local Wellington musicians, and there were tears shed by many.
It was an exceptionally well-orchestrated afternoon that carried the momentous power that only heart felt, grassroots protests can, and the positive media coverage highlighted just how much of a catalyst for change the event could be.
Although just last weekend I had to take shelter in a well-lit store as the three young men grabbing at me chose to ignore my firm request for them to stop, I know that the spectacular, sunny afternoon we spent protesting is an incredibly important step in getting them to listen. Rape culture has not ended, but the discourse has begun, and if consent is taught in schools and rape crisis clinics are kept funded and Police start trusting women, then I am somewhat confident that New Zealand can begin a culture of listening.
The Wellington protest was just one of half a dozen in New Zealand, organised by Anne Russell, Kassie Hartendorp and others.
Guest Junior Girl
Co-founder of Feminist Club of Wellington High School