Content Warning: This article discusses sexual and physical assault/abuse.
Results from The National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey, or NCAS, were just released, and as a woman, the findings are distressing.
The 2017 NCAS collected information through telephone interviews with a representative sample of 17,500 Australians aged 16 and over. Respondents were asked a series of questions aimed to find out, amongst other things, the person’s understanding of, and attitudes towards, violence against women. Initially developed on behalf of the Australian Government in 1995, the NCAS is now the world’s longest-running survey of attitudes towards violence against women.
Violence against women
According to The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, the impacts of violence against women can result in immediate to long-term physical, sexual and mental consequences for women and girls.
But violence doesn’t just negatively impact women. It also impacts their families, the community and the general population. Violence is associated with tremendous costs. It means greater spending on health care and legal expenses, losses in productivity, and can impact national budgets and national overall development.
The survey found that one in five respondents believe that much of what is labelled domestic violence is a normal reaction to day-to-day stress. 12 per cent of respondents agreed that domestic violence, if it was the result of a person temporarily losing control, could be excused. Fourteen per cent of respondents said that if the violent person is genuinely regretful, they too, could be excused.
The same amount of people—14 per cent—said that women who flirt all the time are partly to blame if their male partner hits them, because the men become “rightfully” jealous; 21 per cent of respondents, or one in five people, believe a woman can sometimes make a man so angry, that he hits her when he didn’t mean to.
If you think it’s hard for women to leave abusive relationships, 16 per cent of respondents would disagree with you; in fact, they don’t think it’s as hard as people make it out to be.
If a woman is raped while intoxicated, 13 per cent of respondents believe she is partly responsible. 12 per cent of respondents believe that women often say no, when they actually mean yes. And 11 per cent believe that women who wait weeks or months to report sexual assault are probably lying.
Do you think that women like to be persistently pursued, even if they are not interested? One in five respondents respondents said yes.
To be clear, they do not. If a woman is not interested, she is not playing games—she is just not interested.
Three in 10 respondents think that a woman is partly responsible if her partner shares a naked picture of her that she sent to him, without her permission.
If someone you trusted shared a picture of you naked, would you share that opinion? Would it be justified, because you had sent it to them? No. When someone shares something with you in your confidence, it is not okay to take that as their permission to share it with the world.
One in five respondents think that when women are being sexual in public, it is unsurprising that some men think it’s okay to touch them without their consent.
Who’s to say whether a woman is being sexual or not? The man that touches her? It is not up to another individual to determine what you are saying with your body, let alone decide that their interpretation gives them permission to touch someone without their consent.
And perhaps, most disturbingly, 28 per cent of respondents said that when a man is sexually aroused, he may not even realise that the woman doesn’t want to have sex with him, and 33 per cent said that rape results from men being unable to control their need for sex.
No. Absolutely not.
Sexual assault and rape should not be justified by a man’s apparent need for sex, or by his sexual desire.
Enough is enough
It is never okay to touch someone without their permission.
It is never okay to force yourself on a person without their consent. It does not matter whether you are married, dating, friends, co-workers, or complete strangers.
If someone says no, it means no. If someone does not say yes, it means no.
Violence, sexual assault, and rape—against any race, gender, or person—should never, ever, be tolerated, rationalised, or excused.
As someone who has been touched without permission, by strangers, and people I’ve known; as someone who has been sexually harassed; as someone who has been verbally abused for stopping sexual advances—I am telling you, that it is never okay.
As someone who has felt responsible, humiliated, and ashamed by these experiences—I am telling you, that it is never okay.
Thirty-five per cent of women worldwide have experienced sexual violence. And in none of those cases was it acceptable, or justifiable, behaviour.
I should not have to tell someone that their behaviour is inappropriate. I should not have to experience inappropriate behaviour at all.
No one should.
So, if someone says no, and if you do not have their consent—keep your hands off. Because violence against women is never okay.
“Violence against women and girls is a grave violation of human rights”
—The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, 2016
Call 1800 Respect on 1800 737 732 for 24-hour counselling and support services if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic/family violence or abuse. If you are in danger, call 000.