One in three Australian men believe rape victims just 'regretted' consensual sex

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A new study has found disturbing beliefs surrounding sexual and domestic violence are rife among young Australians, particularly concerning consent and controlling behaviour.

One in seven young Australians believe a man can force a woman to have sex if she initiated it but then changed her mind, a shocking new survey has found.

The National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey Youth Report  found many young people have worrying beliefs about sexual consent and abusive relationships, with one in three men believing women who say they were raped actually had consensual sex and later regretted it.

The report released on Wednesday surveyed more than 1,700 people across the country aged between 16 and 24.

The lead researcher of the study, Dr Anastasia Powell, from RMIT University, said it highlighted that many young people failed to fully understand consent.

“Young people’s attitudes towards sex and consent are particularly worrying, too many are too quick to blame the victims of sexual assault and do not understand the law on consent,” Dr Powell told SBS News.

EyeEm
New report found one in seven young people believe it's OK to have sex with a woman who initiated it and then backtracked.
EyeEm

One in five young men believed domestic violence is a normal reaction to stress.

While almost a quarter of young men thought women found it flattering to be pursued, and 16 per cent did not understand that sending repeated text messages or emails was a type of abuse.

Dr Powell said the results clearly show that too many young men didn’t see controlling behaviour in relationships, both in real life and online, as a problem.

“A lot of young people don’t understand that controlling behaviours or constant messaging to someone without their consent or persistent advances to someone who said they are not interested are forms of harassment," she said.

This was the case for Romy. The 24-year old was in a relationship with a controlling man for 18 months.

She told SBS News her tipping point came when she found 15 text messages and nearly 30 missed calls from her then-partner on her phone.

Woman on her phone
Repeated texting and emailing can be a form of harassment.
Pixabay

“My whole life was taken control of by one person and it led me down a pretty dark road of losing my individuality,” she said.

“There was that real mental abuse - and being put down and controlled constantly, made feel not to be good enough and it drove me to a state where I was not happy with myself, I did not feel worthy.

“I stopped leaving the house because I did not feel good about myself, so that mental abuse can really damage someone."

Romy sought help from a psychologist who, over time, helped her to get out of that abusive relationship.

“I was so deep in the relationship, I did not understand what was going on and did not see the serious issues until I did go and seek help and was talking about ‘this is how I feel’ and ‘this is what’s going on’ and then that gave me the time to reflect.”

She said she found strength in wanting to be an individual again and knew that she had to get away from the relationship.

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Survey found worrying beliefs among young Australians about sexual and domestic violence.
Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Romy said the report’s findings did not surprise her.

“I was not surprised people still had these attitudes and that there is still a lot of blame on the female or that there are misconceptions around consent or violence, or what defines violence,” she said.

“But the most disturbing thing was the amount of people who are thinking this.”

CEO Dr Heather Nancarrow, who helped organise the report, told SBS News while young people's attitudes improved over time, there’s still a long way to go.

“Overall the report shows that there’s change over time, “she said.

“[But] we have a long way to go in educating young people about the difference between a healthy relationship and abusive behaviour.”

Overall, the survey found young people are more likely to support gender equality in the workplace or in public life, than in their intimate relationships.

And two in five Australians did not know where or how to get help.

Romy Listo is a member of the young women’s advisory group with the advocacy group, the Equality Rights Alliance.

Ms Listo told SBS news a lot of young people grow up with a really gendered view of the world though their media and internet consumption.

She said more information and “comprehensive sexuality education from a young age, which includes ideas about consent, is really important” to trigger a change in thinking.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency call 000.

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