Survey on women’s experiences of ‘everyday’ sexual assault

“I need a bodyguard just to go to the cinema”: Women’s experiences of ‘everyday’ sexual assault

 Have you been groped at the cinema or on the bus, or experienced unwanted attention in the workplace?

Researchers at QUT’s School of Justice are encouraging young people to share their experiences in a nationwide anonymous online survey on young people’s attitudes to sexual assault.

The survey is part of a larger QUT research project on violence against women – an issue which researcher Associate Professor Sharon Hayes says is becoming more and more noticeable in crime statistics, media reports and even first-hand social media accounts.

“This research is very timely if we are to address the current epidemic in assaults,” she said.

“Our project is looking at ‘everyday’ experiences of minor sexual assault or harassment as its starting point, with a view to investigating the extent of such behavior, and analysing the social and political contexts that allow and encourage such experiences to occur.”

Professor Hayes said a friend of hers had recently used social media to share an account of being groped at the cinema.

According to the plethora of comment on her post, the young woman was not alone in her experience.

“Almost all her young friends and colleagues had stories of the same kind – from being groped in a bar or on the bus, to being forced into date rape,” Dr Hayes said.

“It caused them to commiserate and exclaim with exasperation about the state of the world and men they encounter on an everyday basis.”

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) estimate around 17% of Australian women have experienced some sort of sexual assault.

An Australian Human Rights Commission survey (2008) also indicated around one in three women aged 18 to 64 had experienced sexual harassment – the majority (65%) at work – ranging from suggestive comments and jokes to unwanted touching and rape.

Dr Hayes said the Perceptions of Sexual Assault Survey was aimed at young people aged 18 to 26, but that anyone over 18 could take part.

More information and a link to the survey is available on the project’s Facebook page, “Perceptions of Sexual Assault Survey”.

Professor Hayes said the survey results would be used to better identify  public attitudes towards sexism and sexual assault, and this would provide a starting point for addressing the issue in areas where women are most at risk.

She can be reached on s.hayes@qut.edu.au.