Gender inequality to be fixed by the next generation

ProBono Australia: Wednesday 22 May 2019 at 5:47pm

By Maggie Coggan

Young people are being encouraged to play an active role in promoting respectful relationships after research found one in seven young Australians believe a man would be justified to force sex if the woman initiated the act, but then changed her mind.

The results from the National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS), released on Wednesday, found that while young people increasingly believed in equality in the workplace and in leadership, they were less likely to recognise sexism, coercion or problematic behaviour in their own relationships.   

Out of the 1,761 people surveyed between the ages of 16 and 24, one quarter agreed that “a lot of times, women who say they were raped had led the man on and then had regrets”.

This figure has declined 14 percentage points from 2013, but young men (32 per cent) were more likely to support this statement than young women (18 per cent).

The survey is commissioned every four years by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women and Safety (ANROWS) and VicHealth. The latest results come from data collected from 2017.   

Over two in five young Australians (43 per cent) supported the statement ‘I think it’s natural for a man to want to appear in control of his partner in front of his male friends’, and over half of all young men surveyed (52 per cent) believed many women exaggerated how unequally women are treated in Australia, compared to 37 per cent of women.

While 30 per cent of men agreed there was no harm making sexist jokes in front of their male friends compared to 14 per cent of women, only 4 per cent of young people agreed it was okay for men to joke about being violent towards women.

Overall, young people were more likely to support gender equality in their workplaces or in politics than in their intimate relationships.  

Lead researcher Dr Anastasia Powell from RMIT, said the research showed many young people – and in particular men – blamed women for sexual assault and failed to fully understand consent.

“We need to do more to teach young men about what consent looks like. Swiping right is not consent, kissing is not consent and saying yes to one sexual act doesn’t give blanket consent to everything,” Powell said.

“It’s highly problematic that young men think it’s sometimes okay to force sex on a woman, or believe that women want men to persistently pursue them even after they’ve said they’re not interested.”

The survey also uncovered that 20 per cent of young men did not understand that repeatedly keeping track of a partner’s location was a form of violence against women, and 11 per cent did not see stalking as a form of violence.

Powell said this demonstrated a gap between what was problematic behaviour.

“While young men demonstrated a strong understanding of physical violence against women, they were less likely to recognise that things, like checking their partners’ emails without permission or following her home from uni, are also forms of violence,” she said.

Cath Bartolo CEO of YFS Brisbane (an organisation that contributed to the report) told Pro Bono News while it was positive improvements had been made since the last survey in 2013, there was some way to go.

“We need everyone to help educate and bring about change whenever we witness or hear negative behaviour towards women happening,” Bartolo said.

“I think it’s not until there’s that dialogue that young people actually get to think about where they have gotten those views from and why they think that’s right.”     

She said that peer-to-peer models, such as the R4Respect movement led by YFS, were particularly effective in changing attitudes.

She added that new research to be released on Thursday, also by ANROWS, demonstrated the benefits of young people leading the charge on a change in attitude.  

“The research shows that when one young person takes a stand and challenges another young person, or educates them, young people will take more notice,” she said.  

Youth worker and R4Respect ambassador Nadia told Pro Bono News the changes she’s seen in people’s attitudes towards women have been immense in the three years she’s been involved in the program.

“We’re not seen as teachers we’re seen as peers, and we’re more relatable because we’ve only just gone through high school ourselves,” Nadia said.  

“We also understand the changing nature of relationships because of dating apps and changing values, so we’re able to connect on that level.”

She said that while it was worrying to see these kinds of attitudes at the moment, it just drove her to work harder.  

“I guess it drives me to continue the work that I do to ensure that as a young person, I can create change so future generations don’t have to face the same issues that we do today,” she said.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au.

In an emergency call 000.

See press article