White Ribbon accepts PM's explanation of controversial radio stunt

Prime Minister John Key (File)
Prime Minister John Key (File)

Anti-violence organisation White Ribbon has sought an explanation from Prime Minister John Key after he was caught up in a controversial radio station stunt trivialising male rape.

After Mr Key's appearance on The Rock last week, where he was asked to get into a cage and pick up a bar of soap - a reference to prison rape - a petition was set up calling for the prime minister to be dumped as an ambassador for White Ribbon.

White Ribbon says it has sought clarification from Mr Key.

"We are informed that he did not know what was about to occur, and did not at the time comprehend the rape references or make any. We take the prime minister at his word," the organisation said in a statement on its website.

But White Ribbon labelled the The Rock's actions as "an awful exercise in bad taste" and said the radio segment helped perpetuate violence by normalising and trivialising it.

"This all too common acceptance of rape and violence within our society is unacceptable. It can re-victimise and trivialise, and whether directed at men or women, it is wrong," White Ribbon said.

"We ask organisations such as The Rock to consider whether they wish to be part of the solution and help to end the unacceptable levels of violence, or through their actions or inaction, continue to create the environment that supports violence."

White Ribbon will also be writing to all of its ambassadors to remind them of their expectations and the commitment they have made to the anti-violence campaign.

"Our and their pledge is to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence towards women. We will continue to try and uphold that," the organisation said.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Mr Key said he does such radio appearances in the spirit of Christmas and the content is decided by the hosts.

"The interviews are meant to be light hearted, and the prime minister hopes the media and the public take them that way," the statement said.