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PW 0379 Preventing sexual and dating violence – mates & dates healthy relationship programme for high-school students
  1. Rebecca Barrow,
  2. Michael McCarthy
  1. Accident Compensation Corporation, Wellington, New Zealand


Sexual violence is estimated to cost NZD$72 130 per incident and New Zealand society NZD$1.2 billion per annum. In 2011, the United Nations ranked New Zealand the worst of all OECD countries for rates of sexual violence, with young people aged 16–24 years at the greater risk of victimisation.

International research shows best practice school-based violence prevention provides the strongest evidence of changing violence supportive attitudes and behaviours of any primary prevention activities. At the time of developing Mates and Dates there was no best practice dating and sexual violence programme nationally available in New Zealand secondary schools.

The programme is aimed at high-school students aged 13–18 and seeks to reduce sexual and dating violence through teaching young people the knowledge and skills to engage in safe, healthy and respectful relationships.

Piloted in New Zealand in 2014 and with a proposed national roll-out in 2018, Mates and Dates has consistently achieved strong evaluation results and has been successfully delivered in settings outside of secondary schools including women’s prison, Alternative Education settings and Teen Parent Units.

Mates and Dates targets the underlying risk and resilience factors relating to sexual violence amongst young people, with each participant engaging with the programme for five sessions facilitated over one hour. Delivery of the programme incorporates a step-laddered approach (available over 5 years), with each year building on the lessons of the previous year. The content of these sessions covers skills and knowledge relating to:

  1. healthy relationships

  2. skills and consent

  3. identity, gender and sexuality

  4. abusive relationships

  5. seeking help and support.

Through teaching young people these key skills, the programme intends to create a culture that does not tolerate sexual violence, embraces norms that support healthy relationships and increases reporting and intervention.

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