Opinion piece by Dr Lyn Roberts AO, Acting VicHealth CEO
First published on Bendigo Advertiser, 1 June 2019.
A young man is waiting in line for coffee when he notices a group message on his phone. A friend has sent a private selfie of his girlfriend to a bunch of mates.
Uncomfortable, the young man wonders what to do.
When his coffee arrives, he replies: ‘Hey mate she sent that image to YOU not US’.
To his surprise, his mates have his back, agreeing it’s not cool.
To some, this scene might seem unrealistic, but the latest National Community Attitudes Survey into Violence Against Women (NCAS) data shows that many young people, including men, are bothered by behaviour like this. However, not enough are taking action – and most underestimate the support they would receive from their mates if they did.
Indeed, results from the NCAS youth report show that in general, young people’s attitudes to violence against women and gender equality are improving, but several key problem areas remain.
Many young Australians still don’t recognise controlling behaviours in relationships (like tracking their partner via their mobile phone) as a form of domestic violence or abuse.
In the scenario described above, over a quarter of young Australians would blame the victim if her partner shared nude images without her consent.
These findings tell us we need to do more to support young people to build respectful relationships.
We also need to give young men the skills and confidence to speak up if they see sexism and abuse and to stand up to social pressures and stereotypes.
We hope the next NCAS survey will show we’ve all played our part in promoting respect and equality. Our time starts now.