With these two words – and a smartphone videoing – a group of teen girls launched an assault on a 16-year-old leaving an alcohol-fuelled party in Dunedin. The next day the attack was circulating on social media. The victim’s mother has approached The Star saying she wants a voice about school bullying. And a school principal says it reflects a wider issue about young people, alcohol and social media leading to violence. Brenda Harwood reports.
The eight-second recording is rough, dark and confusing to view, but the sound clearly begins with the words “videoing now”.
What happened next left a 16-year-old Dunedin girl with bruising, cuts, concussion and a possible fractured nose.
The assault at a weekend party has three Dunedin families “standing together” to protect their daughters.
After her daughter Lisa* was assaulted while in the company of two friends in George St late on Saturday night, July 29, Kay* kept her daughter away from school last week to protect her safety (*names have been changed).
The parents of Lisa’s two friends did the same.
“We are standing together to protect our daughters,” Kay said.
The girls had returned to school this week, although the situation remained tense, she said.
The Star has decided not to reveal the names of the families or the Dunedin school they attend.
According to Kay, it has been a tough year for Lisa, who has experienced ongoing bullying at the hands of a group of girls in her year 11 cohort.
She described her daughter as “a good kid, who plays sport and is into the arts”.
It was clear to her mother that something was wrong, as Lisa was coming home from school unhappy and becoming withdrawn, although she wouldn’t discuss the problem.
“Her behaviour and attitude to school changed – she was quite anxious and would refuse to go to school,” Kay said.
The teenager’s health was also affected – she became rundown and unwell.
The situation came to a head on July 29 when Lisa stayed at a friend’s home. She and two friends decided to attend a party where there would be alcohol.
Lisa contacted her mother to ask permission and Kay reluctantly agreed. It is a decision she has come to regret.
“I had a bad feeling about it, but she convinced me to allow her to join in with others going along,” Kay said.
However, she was not aware that the girls were in fact going to a party at a student flat in George St.
The girls had some drinks.
They encountered the bullies at the party, who began threatening them, Kay said.
Leaving the party, Lisa turned and gave her tormentors the middle finger, triggering a physical attack.
“It wasn’t the smartest thing she could have done, but the response was out of all proportion,” Kay said.
The three girls then walked along George St towards the Octagon, covering five blocks while being followed and verbally abused by the other group.
While Lisa was on the phone calling her brother for help, she was set upon by the group and a brief melee ensued.
The assault began after one of the girls with the assailants said “videoing now”.
The day after the party, Lisa was sent the video as a phone message, and since then it has circulated online.
Outraged at the incident, Kay kept Lisa away from school on the following Monday, taking her to a meeting at the school, to report the assault to police, and to a doctor for treatment.
“My daughter had contusions and bruising to her face and cuts inside her mouth [from the attack],” Kay said.
She also had concussion and a possible fractured nose.
The aftermath had been difficult for Lisa, who was afraid to return to school for fear of retaliation.
Kay said she was unhappy with the school’s response to her complaint and felt the families’ concerns had not been taken seriously enough.
“I accept that this assault [on Lisa] happened outside school, but I still want her to be safe at school,” she said.
“What we have here is a history of bullying, which needs to be sorted out.”
The school principal told The Star the incident that triggered Kay’s complaint to the newspaper was “an example of a much wider community, and possibly national, issue”.
This related to young teenagers gathering and drinking, and when arguments broke out, often because of conflicts triggered by social media posts, the mix of immaturity and alcohol could lead to violence.
The principal was “extremely concerned” about the incident and the issues that led to it.
The principal “agreed entirely” with The Star that it was a “drastic step” for parents to withhold their children from attending school because of bullying concerns.
It was not possible to comment further on this subject without reference to individuals, the principal said.
“I am extremely concerned that alcohol seems to be so easily available to our young people and that they are drinking to excess.
“I am extremely concerned that our young people’s social development and communication skills are being stunted by their constant use of social media to the extent that they believe an appropriate way of dealing with conflict is through violence.
“I am also extremely concerned that schools are being accused of not managing ‘in-school’ bullying, when what has occurred is an act of violence in the community outside of school hours that is being dealt with by police.”
The school used a restorative practice framework called Positive Behaviour for Learning to deal with conflicts in the school community.
The principal said the school held individual meetings with the girls and notified teachers.
Offers of meetings to mediate the situation were made, but were declined by one parent.
“We are now looking at bringing in an outside professional to work with all the girls involved .. ”
Police confirmed they had received a report of an assault that occurred about 10.30pm on July 29.
The assailants had been identified and referred to Youth Aid.