An Assault on Our Future survey reveals shock violence, sex views

Herald Sun
17 November, 2008
By Xanthe Kleinig and Cara Jenkin

ONE in every three boys think it is okay to hit girls, and many think forcing "flirts" to have sex is acceptable, a survey shows.

The unprecedented survey of violence and attitudes shows one third of boys believe "it's not a big deal to hit a girl".

One in seven thought "it's OK to make a girl have sex with you if she was flirting".

The survey also shows one in four teenagers lives with violence at home, prompting calls for domestic violence education programs in schools.

The study, which reviewed data from the past seven years, including a survey of 5000 12 to 20-year-olds, found up to 350,000 girls aged between 12 and 20 one in seven had experienced sexual assault or rape.

Almost one third of girls in Year 10 had experienced unwanted sex.

The survey, "An Assault on Our Future: The impact of violence on young people and their relationships" is released today by the White Ribbon Foundation, which campaigns to end violence against women.

Report co-author and sociologist Dr Michael Flood said research revealed watching a violent parent could be just as damaging as a physical assault.

"We used to distinguish between children witnessing violence and children experiencing violence but that implies that seeing your dad or mum being violent is more trivial," he said.

"In fact, the evidence is that it can be just as harmful, powerful and traumatic as the physical impact."

Living in a violent home was linked to depression, increased aggression, delayed social and emotional development and poorer education and employment prospects, he said.

In South Australia, 22 per cent of young people surveyed reported witnessing an act of physical violence against their mother or stepmother. This included throwing objects or hitting or threatening them with a weapon such as a knife or gun.

More than half (58 per cent) of those had witnessed their father/stepfather yell loudly at their mother/stepmother, while 28 per cent witnessed acts of humiliation and 8 per cent had seen their father/stepfather stop their mother/stepmother seeing her family or friends.

White Ribbon Foundation chairman Andrew O'Keefe said violence would not end without challenging the views that tolerated it. "If we are going to succeed we must start by challenging these attitudes while kids are still young," he said.

"We know that adults who hold these attitudes are more likely to use violence."

White Ribbon Day, November 25, is the United Nation's Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

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