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April 9, 2019 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Looking at Student Safety in Blind Date Columns


CW: Sexual Assault, Sexism, Ableism


“Blind date” columns have become a staple of student magazines in New Zealand. These columns involve two students going on a blind date (with food and drinks supplied by the respective magazine), writing about the experience afterwards.


Following an alleged sexual assault related to a blind date in 2016, Salient investigated what student magazines are doing to keep their participants safe.


In 2017, Salient reported on an alleged sexual assault which happened on a blind date for University of Otago student magazine Critic Te Arohi’s “Love is Blind” column the previous year.  


The column, now known as “Critic Blind Date”, involves two participants going on a blind date together. The participants each write entries about their experience of the date, and both entries are published in the magazine.


Blind Date participant Monique told Salient she was sexually violated by her date Nathan* when they returned to his flat the evening of the date in 2016.  


Monique’s column stated that both she and Nathan had consumed two bottles of wine throughout the night, becoming inebriated.


The incident was investigated by police after Monique laid a complaint on 29 July 2016. However, after both participants were formally interviewed, police did not find enough evidence to prosecute Nathan.


Since the alleged sexual assault, Critic has continued the Blind Date column.


Critic Editor Charlie O’Mannin says they continued their column this year because it is “wildly popular” with students.  


Fiona McNamara, General Manager at Sexual Abuse Prevention Network, believes that to ensure students’ safety on these blind dates, university publications need to set up guidelines that focus on respect and consent.


“The guidelines should focus on educating people on how to treat their date well, and put emphasis on how important consent is,” said McNamara.


Critic has put certain safety measures in place to ensure students know what to do if they feel at risk on the date.


The measures include sending out an email to participants which covers guidelines around consensual sex, and who to contact if they feel uncomfortable.


University of Waikato student magazine Nexus also decided to continue their blind date column after being informed about the 2016 sexual assault allegations.


Nexus safety processes involve letting participants know there is no expectation of sexual contact, providing contact details of the magazine editor for students to contact if they have any concerns, working proactively with the staff at the date venue, and organising a safe ride home for participants if needed.


Both Critic and Nexus have said they place limitations on how many drinks participants can consume on the date.


Massey University student magazine Massive launched their own blind date column this year.


Massive Editor Laura Macdonald told Salient they made the decision to introduce the column after seeing how popular it was among students from other universities.


“Since it was such a hit in the other magazines, I thought that it might boost Massive’s popularity with the student body,” said Macdonald.


Massive confirmed with Salient they have put specific safety measures in place to prioritise student welfare.


“We have a five-page hazard plan, a health and safety document/behavioural contract, as well as making sure the [restaurant] staff are aware that it is a blind date,” said Macdonald.


For information on mental health and sexual harm support services, see page 7.


*Name changed.


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