Teenage girls at an Australian high school who filmed their teacher saying it “does matter” what a woman is wearing if she is raped say they were not trying to “slander” the teacher, but to raise awareness about consent.
The footage, uploaded to Facebook on Thursday, has been watched more than 127,000 times.
It shows Reece, a 15-year-old student at Swansea High School on the NSW Central Coast, arguing with her teacher, saying “it doesn’t matter what she was wearing, there was a lack of consent”.
The teacher can be heard repeating “it does matter”, and saying that the students’ generation “doesn’t understand”.
Reece, 15, said the class has been discussing how fashion had changed from the 1950s to now when the argument began.
“[The teacher] then brought up a woman in Newcastle who was raped recently and when they contacted the club she was at they pretty much blamed her,” Reece said. “[She] was like ‘that lady would need to be held accountable for what she’s wearing’ which is where the video starts off.”
The video was filmed by a second 15-year-old named Natalia and uploaded to Facebook by a friend who does not attend Swansea High.
At one point in the video, a male student interrupts in support of the teacher to say a woman’s clothing does matter “to an extent”.
“Obviously if someone is wearing something provocative,” he can be heard saying.
Natalia told BuzzFeed News the male student also agreed with Reece at other points in the debate which weren’t captured on video and that he and other male students in the class supported the girls “100%”.
Most of their classmates have been supportive, Natalia said.
“They feel like we might have gone a bit too big but it is an important thing and we are trying to get a movement,” she said. “We want to educate them that ‘no’ does mean ‘no’ and consent matters.”
Natalia said the school had changed its sign to say: “We support student voice”.
“We don’t want the school slandered, they are very supportive,” she said. “Our intention was never to slander the teacher, it is to raise awareness.”
Swansea High School principal Robyn Leggatt wrote to families on Monday and said the teacher had been “relocated” to a “non-school setting”.
“The school deeply regrets the distress these comments have caused,” Leggatt wrote. “The comments made by the staff member were wrong: they do not reflect the views of students and staff of Swansea High, nor those of the NSW Department of Education.”
The NSW Department of Education is still investigating the matter. “The teacher is currently not at the school,” a department spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “The school involved will continue to support students including the provision of counselling if required.”
Murat Dizdar, the department’s deputy secretary responsible for school operations and performance, said the department expected “respectful conduct” from students, staff, and school community members.
“The department strongly rejects any assumptions relating to a rape culture in any school, with the alleged comments of its staff member completely inappropriate,” he said in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News.
Reece’s mother Natalee Balzan said she was “really proud” of her daughter.
“I can see that [Reece and her friends] have taken such a negative situation and turned it into a positive,” Balzan told BuzzFeed News. “I love that she has that in her, that passion to straight away stand up for what is right.”
On Monday students held a protest outside the school which the Facebook event specified was “not an attack” against the school itself. Reece and her friends have also created a Facebook page to raise awareness about victim-blaming and consent.
“We want to promote the idea that we are very much against rape culture and it being taught especially to very young people with impressionable minds and thoughts,” she said.
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