VicHealth: One In Two Aussie Youths Think Spying On Their Partner Is OK

Last week our friends at Kotaku covered Australia's new Minister for Women's thoughts on video games and domestic violence, referencing a report released by VicHealth. While the report only tentatively linked video games to the perpetuation of this culture, much of the data did in fact look at the influence of modern technology — such as social media and mobile phones — and its potential role in domestic violence.

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The report compiles data from the 2013 National Community Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women Survey, looking at the answers given by respondents between 16 and 24 years of age. One section of the report that relates specifically to tech includes a question that gauges respondents' thoughts on the seriousness and acceptability of using modern technology to track or control a woman's movement without her consent:

Rapid development in the availability and capabilities of information communication technologies (ICTs) has brought many benefits. However, there is evidence of their use in the harassment of women and in the control of their movements and communications activity (Hand et al. 2009). The latter, occurring particularly in the case of partner violence, may involve:

• checking a woman's mobile phone call register, messages and contacts • installing and using mobile phone and computer tracking software to enable keystroke logging or computer monitoring (e.g. spyware) • using technologies such as webcam to record, and subsequently digitally transmit, information about a woman's movements and activities • checking a woman's instant messaging, chat room and browser activity (Hand et al. 2009).

The majority of young people agree that tracking a woman by electronic means without her consent is serious behaviour (84%), although young women were more likely to do so than young men (87% v. 80%). Nearly half of young people (46%) agree that there are circumstances in which tracking without consent would be acceptable.

The report looks at why these stats would be so high within this young demographic, citing a culture that has grown up with technology as the accepted norm. It doesn't only look at the way technology can be used to perpetrate violence against women, but also how it nurtures attitudes in young people that can lead to apathy or skewed perceptions towards domestic violence:

The prevalence of new communications technology in young people's everyday lives and the 'broadcast and connect' nature of contemporary youth culture may explain why young people tend to over-rate the acceptability of electronic tracking. Other research shows that these technologies may be used by young people to produce and circulate images of themselves and others and that these practices often involve damaging gender stereotyping and denigration of women.

New media — such as social media — is also linked to the perpetration of what the report calls 'raunch culture', defined in the glossary as 'culture that promotes overtly sexual representations of women, for example through the acceptance of pornography, stripping and nudity in advertising'. It even mentions the so-called 'bro culture', something which most active users of social media will be familiar with at least in passing.

The emergence of raunch culture has dovetailed with the widespread use of social media by young people, which has hastened and extended the ways in which young people communicate and connect. This includes the production and circulation of images of themselves and others (Draper 2012; Lounsbury et al. 2011; Mitchell et al. 2012; Phippen 2009; Strassberg et al. 2012).

These trends may influence attitudes towards violence by: • encouraging both young men and women to see young women as sexualised beings (Squires et al. 2006) • introducing a violent, gender-stereotyped pornographic style into some young people’s attitudes towards sexuality and sexual relations (American Psychological Association 2010; Chrisler 2012; Dines 2010; Crabbe & Corlett 2011; Papadopoulos 2010) • encouraging men and women to believe that it is okay, and indeed a sign of men’s power and status, to use and abuse women (Chrisler 2012).

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