Today survey results from a study conducted by VicHealth for the Australian Federal Government, into attitudes regarding violence against women. The full reports and stuff from VicHealth are here, the ABC coverage of the report is here.
This is the first such survey since 1995, so its been a while since the last one and this survey covered a broad spectrum of the Australian population. The disturbing findings (“challenges”) as listed in the fact sheet are below:
Fewer people in 2009 believe that slapping and pushing a partner to cause harm or fear is a ‘very serious’ form of violence than in 1995 (from 64% in 1995 to 53% in 2009).
So although the percentage of people who think that slapping and pushing a partner to cause harm or fear has dropped, it is still stupidly high.
22% of people in 2009 believe that domestic violence is perpetrated equally by both men and women compared with 9% in 1995.
This is better I suppose. Domestic violence is perpetrated by both genders, even if one gender features higher in statistics of domestic violence, but the number is still low, meaning that men who are victims of domestic violence are unlikely to be able to get the help or validation they need.
34% believe that ‘rape results from men being unable to control their need for sex’.
This feeds back into rape culture and the fact that men shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions in relation to sex, because it is an overwhelming thing that just destroys their minds…. or something. Seriously although someone may crave sex, they can just masturbate versus raping someone.
One in four people (26%) disagrees that ‘women rarely make false claims of being raped’.
To put this in perspective, 26% of the people surveyed believe that women cry rape for fun. Seriously people what is wrong with you? Why would someone falsely claim that they were raped by someone else? This is such a damaging claim, it detracts from everyone who has ever been raped and forces victims to go further than they need to to prove that they have been raped. This is one reason why so many victims don’t go to the authorities after they’ve been raped, because who would believe them?
13% of people still agree that women ‘often say no when they mean yes’ and roughly one in six (16%) agrees that a woman ‘is partly responsible if she is raped when drunk or drug affected’.
This again is pure rape culture. The one at fault for raping someone is the rapist, and not the victim. Victim blaming does not reduce rape culture, does not help the victim and if someone says “NO”, then that’s pretty clear. When I say “No”, I do not mean, “Please come by and rape me later, it’d be fun.” Thankfully there are some good rape prevention programs being launched around the world.
One in five people (22%) believes that domestic violence can be excused if later the perpetrator regrets what they have done.
“Oh, I’m so sorry I punched you in the face and gave you a black eye. I didn’t mean to fracture your eye socket, I was having a bad day.”
Does that work for you? Do you feel better now about that black eye and fractured eye socket, having to wear makeup to hide the bruising? Probably not. Domestic violence should not be excused, it is assault, it is a crime and no matter how sorry to perpetrator feels afterwards, that does not excuse what they did. You may choose to forgive them, but that doesn’t wipe the slate and make what they did acceptable.
Eight in ten people in the general community say it is hard to understand why women stay in violent relationships and more than half believe a woman could leave a violent relationship if she really wanted to.
Thanks to the Family Law Center I have the perfect answer to this (yay the internet!).
Simply asking the question “Why do women stay in violent relationships?” is blaming the victim. People don’t seem to ask nearly as often, “Why do men batter?”, a question which places the blame with the perpetrator. It is easy to blame the victims in battering relationships. Often, those outside the relationship will think that if she really wants to leave, she can. However, abuse is never the victim’s fault, and there are often many psychological issues affecting abused women and their ability to leave an abusive relationship.
Ok, so to take this back to the title of the post. I’ve been a long believer in the fact that sex education in Australia is completely inadequate to prepare people for not just sex but also relationships with the people they’re having sex with. Teenagers muddle along in relationships, possibly basing them on what they’ve read, other relationships they’ve witnessed (good and/or bad) and the media. If the education system actually had proper discussions about types of relationships, what was good in a relationship and what could be bad or problematic, that alternate relationship styles (BDSM, polyamory, etc) were ok and that alternate sexualities were also ok, then suddenly we have a system that can start preparing children and teenagers to have good relationships. If we throw in good communication skills; an understanding of why honesty is important with your partner; proper discussions of domestic violence and sexual assault; and discussions of STI testing, and we’ve moved to providing a world class educational model for the next generation.
If this is done well, then maybe we’d reduce the number of people who think that victims should be blamed, reduce rape culture and get that tricky issue of consent sorted out.