The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Surpise, Surprise, Violence Begets Violence

Posted by Cate on November 17, 2008

The White Ribbon Foundation has released some of the initial findings of their  latest research report,  An Assault On Our Future: The Impact Of Violence On Young People And Their Relationships.

The report, which reviewed data from the past seven years, including a survey of 5000 12 to 20-year-olds, linked an exposure to domestic violence to attitudes about violence. Some of the surveys results include:

One third of boys surveyed believe “it’s not a big deal to hit a girl”.

One in seven thought “it’s OK to make a girl have sex with you if she was flirting”.

Up to 350,000 girls aged between 12 and 20 – one in seven – had experienced sexual assault or rape.

Almost one third of girls in Year 10 had experienced unwanted sex.

The survey also shows one in four teenagers lives with violence at home, prompting calls for domestic violence education programs in schools.  None of this is particularly new in my personal opinion, educators and welfare pundits have long correlated domestic violence/parental attitudes with interpersonal behaviour.

Will this be another research report that sits on a well meaning person’s desk gathering dust? Will there be timelines for concrete action? And how can the impact of familial violence as a precursor to violence, be isolated from the impact of peer and larger societal perceptions of violence towards women?

Further, does family or childhood violence not only predict but excuse future behaviour? Seems to be trotted out in court sentencing at an alarming rate. At a very basic level, many victims of family violence do not hold misogynist attitudes, (though of course they may possess more interpersonal and social resources). Let’s hope this research leads to structural and interpersonal efforts at change.

November 25th is the United Nations Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. For more information on the White Ribbon Campaign including events in each state and how to buy ribbons and wristbands go to


20 Responses to “Surpise, Surprise, Violence Begets Violence”

  1. tina_sparkle said

    this is disturbing. who is instilling this rubbish in these boys’ heads?

  2. Mel Campbell said

    Cate, thanks for bringing up the practical ramifications of this report. There seems to be such a storm of handwringing and moral outrage in the media over this (“such terrible attitudes!”) with very few suggested actions to combat these attitudes. Like perhaps education programs for kids (and for judges, perhaps?). I’d download the report myself to check its recommendations, but I’m pretty sleepy right now.

    Also, I’m always dubious about how helpful coloured ribbons and wristbands actually are. If the purchase price goes to fund the advocacy group then fine, but I can’t see anything on the White Ribbon Day website about that (there’s a separate ‘donations’ link). Plus, this report suggests ingrained cycles of violence against women that make the symbolic wearing of a white ribbon seem a pitifully inadequate solution.

  3. blu-k said

    There’s some controversy surrounding the credibility of this report – see here:
    (read the dissenting comments too).

    It’s still a major problem that needs to be addressed though!!!!

  4. Steven said

    @Mel – it doesn’t contain anything new, its just a literature review of what has already been said. This one just puts it in a snazzy PDF with cool colours, bolded bits, and inset anecdote blocks to liven things up.

    (I keep writing more and deleting it since it doesn’t ‘hang’ properly, so I’ll leave it at that for now)

    Tina: 19% of girls also agreed that it was not really a big deal if a guy hit a girl – vs 31% men. (Though i don’t have the other port to see whether ‘hit’ is given more definition, or what a ‘big deal’ mean. I’d also be interested in whether the reverse situation was asked about – and what people thought of that. I think you’d get a similar result i.e. nobody wants their own group to get hit.)

  5. mscate said

    I must confess I don’t buy ribbons or bands or anything like that. I prefer a direct donation to a charity or even some kind of materials goods (kids toys for a refuge or whatever).

  6. Mel Campbell said

    @Steven – Well that annoys me, that seems to make the report precisely calibrated to attract the kind of hysterical media coverage it has done. The Crikey piece makes the main claim that nobody is talking about research methods or what the report actually means, which is totally a fair call.

  7. scal said

    I’d love to see more about the methods used. If you’re drawing conclusions from talking to young teens and boys, you have to factor in all kinds of shit. Kids don’t necessarily answer from the heart, or even give the question consideration before answering. 12 year old boys are still at the “eeew, girls are gross” developmental stage.

  8. Elena said

    Interesting. This report is indeed just confirming the results of previous reports. The results are always about the same- the sexual assault of girls is horrendously common and however you want to debate research methods the abuses tend not to be associated with high levels of respect for girls rights.

    There is logic disconnect with some of the debate here. Unless you want to outright claim that girls are lying on mass then someone is assaulting them.

    The reality of our society is that we tolerate the abuse of girls (and women) on a massive scale. It is an accepted, entrenched abuse of human rights.

    Denialists like to muddy the issue by claiming ‘hysteria’ (oh where have I heard that before) or latching onto ‘Christian moral outrage’ (some Christians like to turn women’s rights discussions away from the issue of power, which is what they are, into issues of sex, which is what they aren’t).

    Everyone is dead keen to avoid talking about the human rights abuses that are being committed against girls.

    As for the white ribbon campaign, I have all sorts of problems with them- they made an ad a few years ago which was appallingly stupid and I don’t think they demonstrate a good understanding of the nature of violence against women.

    Why is there a lack of action? Because we have to first accept whats happening. That so many posts on a feminist blog are dedicated to yet again disbelieving, denying, undermining the same figures that have been found again and again just illustrates this.
    Lets keep pretending shall we?

  9. Mel Campbell said

    Elena, I think that what we are criticising is an organisation (White Ribbon Day) that releases a report to the media without any information contextualising it with previous research, or revealing its methodology, and hence public awareness of this issue is trivialised and sensationalised – we aren’t trying to belittle the issue itself.

    It annoys me considerably that you would misrepresent the debates on this blog around violence against women as “disbelieving, denying, undermining”, when we are doing precisely the opposite. We aren’t “pretending” it isn’t a problem; we are simply being a bit more analytical about organisations that represent this issue, and media reports of it.

    It’s too important a social problem to content ourselves with handwringing posts along the lines of: “Oh no, this is terrible! Oh no, it’s a human rights abuse!”

  10. Steven said

    well said Mel – though maybe it is because I read so many female-oriented blogs/forums, but I’d go further and say the opposite is true. (yes, I’ve taken to seeing ads and wondering just how they’ll get pulled apart as somehow putting down women)

    Violence against women is the pretty much the ONLY type of violence discussed. Men are much more likely to be assaulted, but how often is that discussed? As for domestic violence being accepted, it is commonly accepted that ‘men don’t hit women’ and anyone who does is cowardly, etc – yet if a woman hits a man, its seen in a completely different light.

    What is wrong with questioning methodologies? Reporting of statistics is notoriously bad. If I told you ‘only 20% of people agreed with statement X’ that gives a different impression of the data to if I also gave you the information that ‘60% of people neither agreed or disagreed with statement X’. This report seems to push a viewpoint by presenting select collections of data.

    Anyway, nobody is saying that girls aren’t being assaulted (though the constant hammering of the message gives the impression that males aren’t also getting assaulted, or that it isn’t problematic). The stats don’t just suggest a violence against women problem – they suggest a violence in the community problem, irrespective of gender. Further, the report makes the point that women en masse suffer more because they had the tendency to be living in fear of assault at an exaggerated amount relative to their actual chance of being assaulted. Is it any wonder when they’re constantly told to be in fear?

  11. Elena said

    I don’t think violence against women is an ‘important social problem’. I do think it is a human rights abuse. Women are being tortured but because there is no recognisable state actor this torture is dismissed as ‘an important social issue’. So yes, you are belittling the issue.

    So many times we allow the government and organisations like White Ribbon- which I have huge problems with- set the agenda. We talk about what they want to talk about.

    Which brings me to ‘handwringing’. ‘Handwringing’ is a tried and true way to dismiss human rights concerns. I believe its a favorite when neo-cons in the US talk about opposition to Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, or when the right wing in Australia responds to concerns about poverty. Here it is being used to undermine and make fun of my opinion.

    I just want the rape, torture and killing of women to matter. I won’t let them set the agenda. I won’t listen to euphamisms like ‘social problem’ without saying, no- we are talking about passing a woman in the frozen food aisle with a cut lip and black finger marks all over her face and arms, we are talking about being raped, night after night, we are talking about dead girls and broken bodies.

    Not some stupid organisations stupid study, not a ‘social problem’ not an intellectual, analytical discussion.

    I’m so bored with everyone in Australia letting the government and organisations set the agenda on every issue.
    Child abuse? Wow, lets let the government make stupid, racist policies about indigenous communities and internet filtering and then lets only discuss their stupid policies and lets ignore the actual real issue that the policies pretended to tackle.

    Lets not demand that the real issue is actually dealt with, that good welfare services are properly funded or that child pornographers are properly prosecuted- no- lets just let the government control the issue by doing exactly what they want us to and fussing over their stupid, distracting policy instead of the real problem!!

    This is what we do and this is what is happening here with the stupid White Ribbon study.

  12. Mel Campbell said

    Steven – I think the issue here boils down to the way that reports on contentious social issues are presented to the media. As you say, statistics are really easy to misrepresent. And the points in your last paragraph didn’t really make it into media reporting of this study at all.

    Elena – Oh my god, now it’s my turn to be bored – of your ranting. You seem like a really angry person in search of precisely what you’re angry about. Like it or not, this post is about what you call “some organisation’s stupid study”, so please allow us to address our commentary to that, rather than going off on tangents like: “everyone in Australia letting the government and organisations set the agenda on every issue”.

    I think that you might agree with us that “the real issue is actually dealt with”. And I think we agree on what that issue is. But we seem to disagree fundamentally on how to deal with it. The commenters here are talking about study methodologies, media reporting of studies, the role of the White Ribbon Foundation and whether the study will lead to government or community action to stop violence against women.

    Whereas you are making emotive, big-picture statements about the “rape, torture and killing of women”, and your only practical suggestions are about “good welfare services” and the prosecution of child pornographers, neither of which seem directly intended to prevent violence against women. And when I tried to point out that as feminists, we need to do more than just invoke the rape, torture and murder of women, you accuse me of undermining and making fun of you.

    Also, the comparisons with Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay? I am getting pretty close to calling Godwin’s Law on your arse.

  13. Elena said

    Not sure why you think that prosecuting the people who abuse girls (and boys), and post photographs of it couldn’t assist to prevent this abuse.
    Or why welfare services (um, to increase the welfare of women, eg where women and their children can get assistance to escape from violence and men can get assistance to stop committing violence) are pointless in preventing violence against women.

    Yes, so much less effective then discussing research methods, statistics and interview techniques.

    You write that I am ’emotive’. Heaven forbid. Yes, lets all discuss study methodologies some more, there’s not been enough of that. Less action, more research into methods of researching into research I say.

    Not sure why there is debate over whether the White Ribbon campaign would lead to any effective action. I think the consideration that it could shows just how much you buy into the absolute rubbish that passes for public debate in this country.

    Where is the discussion of why the media (and even forums like this!) are so effective at turning what could be a rare opportunity to talk about womens rights into dull, numbing and irrelevant chatter about minutiae?

    Yes these issues always come into the media for the wrong reason- because of stupid organisations reports and stupid government policies but we don’t even try to turn the attention to our advantage.

    I’m not really enjoying the discussion here so am going to take my powerful, beautiful arse elsewhere. I wish you all the best Mel.

  14. Mel Campbell said

    Phrase of the day! I am going to cherish the power and beauty of my own arse from this day forward.

  15. caitlinate said

    Stephen – “Violence against women is the pretty much the ONLY type of violence discussed.”

    Probably because it’s a report being published for a campaign on violence against women. Plus, regardless of this report, it’s widely reported that the number one health threat for women is domestic violence. Sure, both men and women are victims of violence but for women it is more often to be because they are women.

  16. […] when it comes to stopping violence and discrimination against women, as fellow Dawn Choruster mscate noted in her post about The White Ribbon Foundation’s report, violence against women is so […]

  17. Steven said

    Caitlinate: sorry it wasn’t clearer, I wasn’t limiting that statement to the report – obviously a report on violence against women would be focussed on violence against women. I meant that in the wider sense of reporting and discussion on violence.

    Is it the number one health threat though? google keeps throwing heart disease, cancer, accidents, and so on – domestic violence not making the top 10 lists. Maybe those are just looking at mortality (and I’m in an airpport lounge on buger all battery, so I can’t do much reading up).

    Do (to take a stereotype) wifebeaters beat their wives because they’re female? or is it for some other reason – whether imagined or ‘real’?

  18. Mel Campbell said

    I’ll counter stereotype with stereotype and say that this dude who habitually beats his wife is taking advantage of patriarchal attitudes that wives are his ‘property’ to treat as he wants. Maybe he’s also influenced by attitudes that men are ‘stronger’ than women and so if he ever feels powerless, he makes himself feel better by asserting his ‘strength’ over a woman.

  19. caitlinate said

    In Victoria, yes –

  20. Steven said

    thanks for the link Caitlinate (and ‘ugh’ at getting my head back into stats stuff)

    just for the poeple who won’t read through the link fully, the conclusion is that it is the number one health threat by way of being an apparent factor in poor health outcomes for women based on a ‘burden of disease’ calculation. Though it is noted as a limitation of the data set used that they cannot tell whether the exposure to the risk factor occurred before or after the health outcome, they assumed that it was.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: