Be Very Ashamed

There are times when I feel ashamed to be an Australian. Today is one of those days.

A health report was released. It’s a survey of the community attitudes of 17 and half thousand people. Some of the answers that were given I personally find grossly offensive. Here’s an example. A large proportion of people in the survey were prepared to justify the actions of rapists and men who inflict domestic violence on women and then shift all of the blame to the victim.

One in five people surveyed say they believe a woman who is raped while affected by drugs or alcohol is partly responsible for what occurred. One in five people believe this. Can you believe it?

Forty percent of people surveyed say quite often women who report they’ve been raped led the man on and later had regrets about it.

Get this. Sixteen percent of the people surveyed say women who say no to an unwelcome advance really mean yes. Apparently women don’t have a mind of their own. I don’t think so.

If you think this is an aberration or just catching people on a bad day, consider this. The last time a survey like this was done was in 2013. At that time the number of people who thought that rape was the result of men not being able to control their need for sex was four. That number has now risen to 10.

When it comes to domestic violence, attitudes don’t get any better. Sixty percent of Australians surveyed say the main cause of domestic violence is men not being able to control their anger.

Prepare to be shocked. Almost a quarter say they believe domestic violence can be excused if the attacker can’t control their anger or regrets it. This is just unacceptable and wrong.

One senior policeman responding to the survey said it was disappointing that people still felt the need to justify violence. What he means is there should be no circumstances where violence against women is understandable or acceptable.

Clearly in this country we need to have some hard conversations and some banging of heads. Attitudes need to change and misogynistic behaviour condemned.

All of this is deeply worrying but there is one other revelation from this survey that I find the most troubling. Young people, particularly young men are more likely to have violent attitudes to women that will either justify, excuse, trivialise or shift the blame for their actions. It makes me wonder what life lessons they are getting at home and at school. Whatever they are being taught clearly doesn’t include the concept of respect.

The head of the health group, which commissioned the survey, spoke wisely when she said any culture that excuses rape and violence is one that allows it to happen. Violence is by choice not by instinct and it is never excusable. Amen to that.