We sat down with Jahla Lawrence, who spear-headed the rally in 2021 and is now the Project Lead for Sexual Violence Prevention at Wellington City Council, to find out more about what sexual violence prevention looks like in the capital.
From doing her Honours research around masculinity and rape-myth attitudes in young men, to her PhD looking at anti-sexual violence digital activism with teenage boys, Jahla has done extensive mahi in the field.
Over a year ago, she observed feelings of unsettledness amongst young people across Pōneke, both while out and about in the city, and through social media.
“We organised a rally [against sexual violence] and from that we began working with Council to develop the need for a long-term strategy or plan,” Jahla says.
The rally kick-started a new programme of work within the Council, which took action and started working with the community to find out what they thought would make the city feel safer, says Jahla.
“The Council committed to developing a Sexual Violence Prevention Action Plan. I worked as a contracting specialist on the plan, providing a bit of advice and support. Then, I got recruited to lead the project.
“[This plan is] essentially a way of understanding sexual violence in Wellington, what the Council’s responsibilities are, what we’re going to do about prevention, who are our key partners, and the values that are driving our work,” Jahla says.
The key to the success of the plan is the partnerships and community voices involved.
“We expect to see lots of different initiatives, projects and partnerships to happen within this plan, and a lot of it will be in collaboration with communities, young people, and existing initiatives that we can support. We've partnered with the Wellington Alliance Against Sexual Violence to do a bunch of urban design hikoi and we’ve partnered with the student associations to do an art installation for Sex Week,” says Jahla.
“We have a Safer Venues Coordinator on board and the two of us will be able to come up with some really tangible strategies for how we do prevention in the hospitality industry and for us to be able to be the people that pull together all the different institutions and organisations that work across that space.”