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Issue #1705      October 7, 2015

Blaming the victim

Today the victims of domestic violence are still being blamed.

A new report released on September 24 by VicHealth revealed extremely disturbing attitudes amongst young Australians towards violence against women and gender equality in relationships. The report, which surveyed 1,923 Australians between the ages of 16 and 24, confirms the situation has worsened.

An alarming number of young men and women believe that women are often partly to blame for rape. The survey found that 20 percent of 16-24 year olds believe that women often say “no” when they mean “yes” compared to 13 percent of the 35-64 year age group as revealed in a previous survey.

Just over one in five (22 percent) of young people believe that men should take control in relationships compared with 16 percent of 35-64 year-olds.

Two in five (40%) believe that “rape results from men not being able to control their sexual urges”, an increase from one in three (33%) in the 2009 survey.

The situation is set to get worse if the VicHealth survey figures are an accurate indication of the attitudes of the next generation.

“Violence against women is the leading contributor to ill health, disability and death for women aged 15 to 44, and has a profound and devastating effect on the health and wellbeing of children, families and communities,” VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter pointed out.

“We know that victims of violence against women are most commonly young women and that a large number of men who commit sexual violence against women do so for the first time before the age of 20. This violence has serious consequences for young people because they’re at a critical life stage. On the other hand, it’s a stage when the prospects for preventing violence are particularly strong.

“Violence against women is serious, common and preventable and while there are many factors that contribute to violence against women, attitudes towards gender roles, relationships and identities are among these. If the community accepts violence against women, men who use violence are more likely to feel it’s OK to behave disrespectfully or even violently, and as a community we’re less likely to take action when we see violence and disrespect.”

Ms Rechter said one of the most concerning aspects of the report was that nearly three in five young people (57%) believe that violence is caused by men being unable to control their anger and a quarter are prepared to excuse violence. Far too many are prepared to see violence as acceptable if alcohol is involved.

These attitudes reflect the messages that young people are receiving – their experiences in the home, at school, what they see on TV and in the social media, religious practices, from sporting heroes and across the whole of society.

What message does it send when a prime minister threatens to shirt-front another government leader or when a popular footballer or cricketer rapes or assaults a woman and little or nothing is done?

Violence against women cannot and must not be accepted whatever its form – physical, verbal or psychological.

Next article – Private vocational training shonks

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