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Young Australian women feel unsafe walking alone at night: report

A Girl walks home alone during a smoggy evening in Gurgaon, Haryana, on October 31, 2018. (Photo by Nasir Kachroo/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A new report has found almost half of young Australian women do not feel safe walking home alone at night.

The Mission Australia Gender Gaps 2018 Youth Survey found clear differences between what young females are concerned about compared to males. 

The survey asked nearly 30-thousand teenagers aged between 15 and 19 from across Australia about their values, worries and goals. 

The results revealed young women tend to be more stressed, worry more about school and studying and have greater body image issues. 

In particular the survey highlighted the fact young women do not feel as safe as boys their own age when it comes to walking home alone at night. 

Feeling unsafe and anxious about walking home alone as a female, is something all too familiar to 20-year-old Tiana Sixsmith. "I think particularly considering I live five minutes from the train station, so it should be a five minute walk and I should feel safe, I think it's just that constant feeling that I don't feel safe. And there's been a lot of things like assaults and even murder and things like that, that have been in the headlines. A lot of our friends have started talking about it and we've started to realise we all have that same fear." 

The results revealed 47 per cent of young girls do not feel safe walking home alone after dark, while only 18.1 per cent of the boys surveyed said they felt unsafe. 

Mission Australia Ambassador, Joann Fildes says there are some simple things that can be done on a base level to change the statistic."I think we need to make sure our communities are safe. And you know the majority of our communities are safe,  but how we experience it as young women is quite a hard thing to understand. So there are simple things like good street lighting, good public transport, good policing in communities, strong communities where people are looking out for each other, where neighbours know each other and people really feel connected." 

Over 70 per cent of boys surveyed also felt more comfortable using public spaces, compared to only 63.1 per cent of young women, while 42.1 per cent of boys also said they trusted people in their local areas, compared to 35 per cent of young women who did not. 

Tiana Sixsmith says the disparity between the results of young females and males didn't surprise her. 

She says growing up she noticed the difference in how her parents approached her going out, compared to her brothers. "I grew up with four brothers and my four brothers didn't have the same sort of speech that you get when you go out. So you go out and your parents say, "Be safe, text me when you get home", but I think it was always, "make sure you're not alone, make sure you call an uber, call a taxi, make sure that you keep busy, you're aware of your surroundings", it's kind of that constant bombardment that my brothers never got." 

Despite the survey results showing young females feel more concerned at night, Joann Fildes says it's important to remember it remains a shared experience regardless of gender. 

"While we say that these are young females who are experiencing that sense of unsafe, their were also males who were experiencing it as well. And it's to have a balanced very gendered approach to the programs which we provide." 

Mission Australia Chief executive James Toomey is hopeful the survey will pave the way for specialised services that address the needs of both young women and men equally. 

He told the ABC listening to what young people want and need is essential."We are calling on a greater understanding as a specific needs around young women as opposed to just around young men. And understanding there are specific services and responses needed which need to be geared towards need of young women if we're going to actually make a difference to their experience in the world around them," he said.

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