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Most young people believe stopping unwanted sex is ‘up to the girl’, new research shows

December 6, 2017 / Saraya Musovic, Senior Media and Communications Advisor, Engagement

Almost 60 per cent of 12-20 year olds agree with the statement: ”If a guy wants to have sex with a girl, it is up to the girl to make it very clear she doesn’t want to,” according to the results of a wide-reaching survey released today by Our Watch youth campaign, The Line.

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Nearly a quarter of male respondents believed that boys and men who take on dominant roles in their relationships with females would gain more respect from their friends.

The research draws on interviews with over 1,000 young people and 500 parents, and compares the findings with data from a September 2015 benchmark survey.

Our Watch CEO Mary Barry said the findings highlight the importance of engaging young people when they are first experiencing and forming attitudes about relationships and sex.

“There is overwhelming evidence that people who have trouble understanding what constitutes respectful relationships, and that adhere to rigid gender roles, are more likely to support, overlook or even perpetrate violence against women,” Ms Barry said.

While there were some problematic trends among young people and parents of 12-20 year olds, the research indicated some positive attitudinal change.

“It is encouraging to see that the 2017 survey demonstrates young people’s attitudes in relation to victim blaming, non-physical violence and the rejection of male control have significantly improved since the 2015 survey,” Ms Barry continued.

One such example from the 2017 results was that 75 per cent of respondents disagreed that a scantily-clad woman was partly responsible for unwanted sex.. That number was up from 71 per cent in 2015.

“Young people are now more likely to reject rigid gender roles, such as the notion that males should be the head of the household, and to agree that verbal abuse and saying hurtful things is a form of violence”, Ms Barry said.

The survey also found that The Line – the Our Watch youth campaign responsible for the survey –  is resonating with its primary audience.

Almost a third of young people (28 per cent) who recognised the campaign indicated they were more likely to have talked to someone about what makes relationships healthy, non-abusive or respectful; compared to 17 per cent who were unfamiliar with The Line.

Similarly, 96 per cent of parents who recognised the campaign reported higher confidence levels to discuss the topic with their children, compared to 89 per cent who did not recognise The Line.

However, despite increasing confidence, there was little change in the number of parents who had spoken to their children about what makes a relationship healthy in the past three months.

“We know from our research that providing young people and their parents with the tools and language to be able to talk about respectful relationships can have a profound effect on changing their behaviour for the better,” Ms Barry said.

“That’s why The Line website houses some really important resources for young people and tools to empower parents to reinforce the message that it’s never okay to be disrespectful or violent.”

About The Line

The Line is an initiative under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022 and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services. It is delivered by Our Watch.

Media contact

Saraya Musovic | saraya.musovic@ourwatch.org.au | 0407091383

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

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

For more information about what’s ok and what’s not when it comes to sex, dating and relationships, visit theline.org.au.

To access guides for reporting about violence against women and their children, visit Media Making Change.