Campaign against sexual violence begins
By Melanie Sjoberg
MELBOURNE — Action on the issue of sexual violence against women on campuses has stepped up here with demonstrations being held on several campuses on September 12.
A cross-campus women's group has been organising to highlight the seriousness of this issue. Reports of violence against women occur with horrible regularity on most of the Melbourne campuses.
The protest at Melbourne University attracted 60 people who heard a representative from Men Against Sexual Assault describe the importance of men taking some responsibility for these assaults. He said that silence was a form of condoning sexual assault.
Wendy Larcombe from the Real Rape Law Reform Coalition pointed out that a phone-in conducted in April had revealed that more than 75% of the callers were assaulted by men known to them. "It makes it difficult", she said, "for women to speak out in this situation because they don't fit the stereotype of 'real rape'".
Zoie Vukotich from the Melbourne University Feminist Collective told Green Left Weekly that the campaign would initially focus on campus assaults. "Melbourne Uni doesn't even have a women's officer", she said. "The administration's response to reported assaults is to refer them to a Centre Against Sexual Assault house, which is already overstretched."
Protests were also held at Monash, La Trobe and Phillip Institute.
The campus groups are linking in to a newly formed broader committee — the Coalition Against Sexual Propaganda, which aims to develop an ongoing campaign targeting violent and degrading images of women. The coalition wants to emphasise the role of the producers and distributors of "popular magazines" which reinforce distorted views of women.
The coalition intends to begin with awareness-raising activities and also attempt to link up with groups interstate building towards a national period of action next year.