By Maree Crabbe – Online Opinion (Aust)
15 November 2007
The non-custodial sentencing last week of eight young men who humiliated and sexually assaulted a young woman has generated a strong public response. A Children’s Court judge convicted seven of the eight youths after they pleaded guilty to making a film in Werribee last year that showed them forcing a 17-year-old girl to perform sex acts with two of the boys while others spat on her and set her hair on fire.
..For the last five years I have been running a sexual violence prevention program in secondary schools in Warrnambool. The program is designed to explore with students what healthy relationships might look and feel like. Too often, both male and female students display attitudes that suggest that women are things of disrespect and humiliation, and that a woman’s role in sexual relationships is about fulfilling men’s desires and wishes. …The attitudes of the young women and men with whom I work reflect a culture where women are often devalued, degraded, dismissed and seen as objects. Advertising and media regularly present women as sexual objects to be looked at and used.
Pornography, the ultimate objectification of women as mere bodies for men’s sexual pleasure (and often, it should be said, violation), has moved from the fringes into the mainstream and studies suggest that growing numbers of young men are using the Internet to get access to it. Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg told a conference earlier this week that girls who were just beginning puberty were copying sex acts, including group and anal sex, that they see on the Internet, believing that such behaviour is normal. When women are not seen as fully human and deserving of respect, violence against them is easier to commit. In Australia, about 1 in 3 young women will experience sexual assault by the time they’re 18.