Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Research On Sexual Violence In Australia Is A Call For More Preventative Action

From a News.com AU story about the report: An Assault on Our Future: The impact of violence on young people and their relationships by Michael Flood and Lara Fergus for the White Ribbon Foundation:

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.

While these numbers may be staggering for some, I view this report as a positive move since it has enough contextual information to point to specific areas where prevention efforts can make a significant difference. Comparisons between this report and later replications of the same research can help show what new prevention efforts are and are not working.

Clearly rape prevention which depends on modifying the behavior of girls so they will not become rape victims is not working and this report shows why it can't be effective at reducing the rate of attempted sexual assaults.

The 1 in 7 survey statistic only includes boys who believe that forcible rape can be an acceptable action. The percentage of boys who believe coercion is acceptable may be far higher. It doesn't matter if none of those 1 in 7 boys explicitly calls forcing a girl to have sex "rape" that's what it is and that is what we must call it in order to make it clear that forcing someone to have sex is an unacceptable action no matter how much that other person flirted or how many times people describe that other person as "asking for it."

If those boys who believe it is acceptable to hit girls or rape them if the girls flirted live in homes where they are witnessing physical, emotional and sexual violence then any prevention strategy that depends on parents teaching their children appropriate boundaries will be largely ineffective at reducing the rate of violence.

Also if girls learned that the way to survive violence at home with minimum trauma was to passively endure the violence they couldn't escape then sex education about boundaries needs to teach children, teens and young adults that another person's passiveness can never be taken as communicating consent. They may not know which fourth of their classmates has lived through violence at home or how many of those children are experiencing PTSD.

Just because you can take what you want without facing a physical fight doesn't make that action right or legal. That's something everyone needs to understand, but many adults refuse to accept this truth when it comes to sex.

Adults who teach boys through word or example that it is okay to coerce girls and/or to force girls to have sex under certain conditions are setting boys up to be rapists and they are setting those boys up to be rightfully accused of rape.

This report also makes it clear why rape prevention through avoidance of potential rapists is impossible unless the person trying to avoid rape never socializes or interacts with anyone who might believe that forcing sex under certain conditions is okay. But even that isn't a guarantee of rape prevention since some rapists break into their intended victim's home.

Girls in most schools cannot possibly avoid all of the one in 7 boys who believe it is okay to rape a girl who flirted. While some boys may wear their dangerous beliefs on their sleeves other boys may never give a clue about their acceptance of rape until they attempt or succeed at rape. They may even talk in opposition to their inner acceptance of sexual violence.

Avoidance might give some would-be victims a lucky escape, but the rate of violence will only go down significantly when the cause of such widespread willingness to assault is significantly reduced.

From the report:

This report examines how violence against women specifically affects children and young people. It looks at the nature of violence they experience in their homes and their own relationships, its impacts, and the priorities for action if efforts to prevent violence among, and protect, young people are to be successful.

Under the heading of why to focus on young people:

Violence prevention among children and young people has been shown to work.

I believe real violence prevention can work but it requires that people stop confusing lecturing victims and potential victims with genuine prevention.

Here's the White Ribbon Campaign press release and complete report (pdf)

Technorati tags:


Bookmark and Share
posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:36 AM   2 comments links to this post


At November 18, 2008 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the Philly.com web site today, 18 November 2008, is a story, "Intern died for resisting rape, jury told". It is the story of a man on trial for drugging, violently raping, and then killing another, younger, man.

It should cause men to think a bit more about the nature of violent sexual assault. Men are not necessarily immune.

At November 19, 2008 2:12 PM, Blogger Marj aka Thriver said...

Thanks for this information, Marcella. I've been very out of the blogging loop lately. Just wanted to come by and say hello, and how I continue to appreciate your on-going work.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home