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Just over 4 in 10 young Australian men do not consider “punching, hitting or restraining” a partner a form of domestic violence, while 44% of the same population do not believe non-consensual sexual activity is rape, an alarming new report has revealed. 

A new survey of 1,000 adults, commissioned by anti-violence advocacy group White Ribbon Australia, explores the misunderstanding in Australian society of the definition of consent, and the various, often subtle, forms domestic violence can take.

The report revealed that, within the 18 to 34 years age bracket, over 50% of men do not think constant phone calls or electronically spying on someone counts as domestic abuse. Just under 50% do not believe controlling finances to the extent that an individual is dependent on the other is domestic violence.

Older male age groups were much more likely to recognise domestic violence, as were women. 

Executive Director of White Ribbon Australia Brad Chilcott said the report, which has yet to be published online, reinstates that Australia has a systemic domestic violence problem. Chilcott added that violence against women is not “an abstract tragedy,” but rather “a crime we witness and tolerate through silence.”

"There is a pervasive blindness to abusive behaviours among young men that is both troubling and dangerous,” Chilcott said in a statement, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. "It just shows that we have such a long way to go in educating men and boys in what constitutes a respectful relationship and appropriate behaviour in our society.” 

On Twitter, White Ribbon Australia replied to comments that queried the exact definition of non-consensual sexual activity.

“The number of people minimising the significance of this research is concerning. One man in our community who believes non-consensual sexual activity, rape, is not domestic violence is too many,” the group said. “We have work to do, and all the whataboutery isn’t it.”

Every day in Australia, up to 10 women are hospitalised due to assault by a spouse or domestic partner. A third of all Australian women have and will experience some form of physical violence at the hands of a partner, while 1 in 5 will experience sexual violence.

On average, one woman a week is murdered in a domestic violence situation. 

Australia’s violence against women statistics, and the figures from the report, are driving White Ribbon’s new campaign.

The group is hoping to reshape the national understanding of domestic violence by encouraging like-minded people to form Community Action Groups, which will then develop community-led responses to bring about change and address cultural attitudes. 

In the lead up to White Ribbon Day on Nov. 20, White Ribbon Australia is asking individuals to hold White Ribbon events, like a march, meal, webinar or meeting, with the intention that the event will prompt the establishment of the action groups. 

Chilcott said one of the key catalysts for change would come from men who speak to other men about the kinds of behaviour that are and aren’t appropriate in a relationship. 

"We can only create change through a community-led response, mobilising people in our schools and workplaces to reshape understanding of what constitutes a healthy and respectful relationship,” he said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “We also need men to begin having these conversations with other men. They need to do the hard work of shifting what is accepted male behaviour and what is abuse.”

If you or anyone you know needs help or advice, please contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 RESPECT for 24/7 support or Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you are in Australia and in immediate danger, call 000.


Demand Equity

42% of Young Australian Men Don’t Think Punching a Partner Is Domestic Violence: Report

By Madeleine Keck