Survey finds one third Australian girls report not feeling safe in public places after dark

A nationwide survey launched today reveals one third (30 percent) of young Australian women aged 15-19 report avoiding public places after dark, with approximately 23 percent believing it’s not safe to travel alone on public transport.

According to Plan International Australia and Our Watch who commissioned the survey, many young women think public places are unsafe for them, particularly after dark, despite statistics highlighting girls are more at risk of violence at home and at the hands of someone they know. 

Young women also feel they need to change their own behaviour and stay at home in order to remain safe.

For example, despite survey respondents believing sexual harassment in public places is both a serious issue and never justified, 17 percent believe girls’ clothing choices make them at least partly responsible for unwanted attention or harassment.

“The data tells us girls think the responsibility for violence or sexual harassment towards women and girls rests with them and not the perpetrators of the crimes. It’s disheartening that so many girls think they’re better off staying at home than doing things as simple as catching public transport on their own,” said Plan International Australia Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Susanne Legena. 

“It’s not okay to ask “why was she out after dark?” or “what was she wearing?” as this lays blame on the victim and removes accountability from the perpetrators of harassment or violence,” said Our Watch Chief Executive Officer, Mary Barry.

“Women and girls should not have to modify their behaviour to avoid being targets of harassment and abuse. Perpetrators must learn that aggressive and disrespectful behaviour and harassment against women is unacceptable,” she said.

“To stop this from happening in the first place we must focus on addressing the drivers of gender-based violence through promoting positive, equal and respectful relationships,” said Ms Barry. 

Global research conducted by Plan International reveals girls feel similarly unsafe in cities in Ecuador, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Peru, Vietnam and Egypt. Girls feel safer in Nicaragua than in Australia, with 23 percent believing they shouldn’t be outside after dark. 

“It’s alarming that girls feel similarly unsafe in Australian cities as girls in countries with much higher rates of actual violence. This is a wakeup call for our federal and state governments, police and community leaders,” added Ms Legena.

This research comes as Plan International joins forces with Three O’Clock and RMIT as part of its Because I am a girl campaign, to launch ‘A girls place’ art exhibition in the Southgate Centre, Melbourne. The exhibition explores the role of art in making public places safer. The program, including the artists, can be found here

The survey, conducted by Ipsos, interviewed 600 Australians girls and young women aged 15-19 from all states and territories. Results are published today in the report “A right to the night:  Australian girls’ on their safety in public places” which can be downloaded from Plan.org.au/arighttothenight 

Quotes from survey respondents about solutions for making our cities safer:

“Educate boys and girls on the issues. Teaching boys not to be offenders rather than telling girls not to go out at night [or] wear certain clothing” young woman aged 19. 

“Educate boys, girls, parents and teachers about healthy, respectful relationships. Challenge everyday sexism,” young woman aged 15.

“Provide safer transport for women who are traveling late at night and improve education for young women on how to avoid situations which are risky or dangerous. HOWEVER, I don’t think women should need these improvements because I believe males should be brought up to believe that females are equal and it is not okay to be violent towards them,” young woman aged 18. 

“No physical [solutions] will help until social attitudes change,” young woman aged 18

Media contacts: 
Plan International Australia: Clare Price, 0490 252 743, clare.price@plan.org.au
Our Watch: Hannah Grant, 0448 844 930, hannah.grant@ourwatch.org.au
threeOclock Collective: Kim de Kretser, 0407521971, kim@kimdekretser.com

About Plan International Australia
Plan International Australia is one of the world’s oldest and largest child rights development agencies. We work in over 70 countries around the world to tackle the root causes of poverty, inequality and injustice. Plan’s flagship ‘Because I am a Girl Campaign’ is working to create a world that values girls, promotes their rights and ends injustice.

About Our Watch
Our Watch is a national, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to preventing violence against women before it starts, through challenging its primary drivers – gender inequality and restrictive gender stereotypes.  The organisation works to increase gender equality and respect in all aspects of everyday life, such as in schools; workplaces; media; sporting organisations; and through social marketing, and developing and influencing public policy. 

threeOclock Gallery
The threeOclock program is a visual arts program that activates semi-public space and transforms it into a vehicle for conversation on socially engaged issues. The program is situated in a repurposed retail space on the upper level of Southgate, Melbourne, and explores social and environmental themes through installation art, film and public talks. It raises awareness about social and environmental causes, inspires new audiences and enables ongoing conversations.