Domestic violence, equality attitude shift National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey finds

Young Australians are becoming more supportive of gender equality overall, but the data reveals some attitudes have gone "backwards", a survey has found.

The National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey found the number of young people who recognise that women are more likely to suffer physical harm from domestic violence has dropped 12 percent since the last survey.

Some suggested women even exaggerated their experience.

Gender equality and health expert Renee Imbesi said there had been advances in some areas, but a massive swing in others, including those to do with intimate partner violence and gender equality.

Some areas had gone "backwards", she said.

"Even though we've achieved quite a lot of change in young people's attitudes to physical violence over time which is terrific, the research shows we need to pay attention to another layer of attitudes," Ms Imbesi said.

Fewer young people recognised violence in intimate partner relationships was more likely to affect women, and be perpetrated by men, she said.

Seventy-five percent of young Australians agreed that women were more likely to suffer physical harm from domestic violence.

In 2013, 87 percent of young Australians recognised this.

Fewer young people also recongised that men were more likely to commit acts of domestic violence; 60 percent, compared to 71 percent in 2013.

More young people in Australia were denying that gender equality was a problem, she said.

"We have quite a significant proportion that think women exaggerate experience of gender equality and exaggerated experience of violence," Ms Imbesi said.

"The research is very clear is that violence is far more likely to affect women in a relationship."

About a quarter of Australian woman over the age of 18 have experienced intimate partner violence since the age of 15. Young women were most likely to have experienced this.

Few young people were prepared to excuse violence against women, the survey showed.

But many showed a high mistrust of women's reports of violence.

Almost a quarter of young Australians agreed with the statement, "Many women tend to exaggerate the problem of male violence". Young men were more likely to support it (31 percent) than women (18 percent).

Nearly two in five of those surveyed agreed that women make up or exaggerate claims of violence to secure advantages in custody battles.

Ms Imbesi said there had also been a change in attitude among young people to control and consent.

The survey showed 12 percent of young people agreed to the statement, "Women often say, 'No', when they mean 'Yes'." One in eight young people did not know that non-consensual sex in marriage is a criminal offence.

More than two in five young Australians supported a statement that it was natural for a man to want to appear in control of his partner in front of his male friends. Twenty-two percent of young men thought men should take control of relationships, and be the head of the household.

The amount of pressure young men feel to appear in control, especially in front of their friends, stood out, Ms Imbesi said.

Other research showed this was harmful for men's mental health, she said.

Control in relationships could be a precursor to violence, she said.

Young women were the most likely of all age groups to experience intimate partner violence.

"Showing control of someone or constantly needing to know where they are, that's not care, that's control," Ms Imbesi said.

Ms Imbesi said the report showed there was a great opportunity to bring the community on board with prevention, and make sure control and consent are things young peole talk about.

It was important to look at the environment, social norms and culture around young people, to change attitudes, she said.

"We all want to see an end to violence against women, that's common across the population," she said.

"This research tells us we have an opportunity to bring people on board with prevention. We can work with community to imagine a world that's totally free from violence."

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency call 000.

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