Young men aren't being told what rape actually is

EXASPERATED, frustrated and heartbroken.

Luke Ablett feels a lot of emotions when he thinks about young men hurting women.

The former AFL player told APN Newsdesk on Friday that young men needed to change their attitudes toward woman

Mr Ablett is the face of The Line ( - a social media campaign-based tool pushing to change young attitudes toward gender and sexism in the hopes of fostering healthy relationships.

The passionate social justice advocate has football royalty in his blood.

He is the son of former Hawthorn player Kevin Ablett; nephew of Geelong legend Gary Ablett Sr and Hawks stalwart Geoff Ablett; and cousin of Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett Jr

A member of the Sydney Swans 2005 drought-breaking premiership team, Mr Ablett notched up 133 games wearing the red and white.

Luke Ablett
Luke Ablett Luke Ablett

His AFL days are long behind him, but Mr Ablett is still kicking goals - albeit for much higher rewards.

His aim - to help lower the epidemic of domestic violence sweeping across Australia.

With two women dying a week at the hands of their violent partners this year, Mr Ablett is desperate to turn back the tide.

"Exasperation, disappointment - domestic violence it definitely has an emotional response with in me," he says.

"I don't know what the label is - the injustice of it, the unfairness of it.

"This is the person who is meant to love you, meant to respect you.

"They often do say they love you and then they will turn around and either physically assault or emotionally abuse the person that they are with.

"I just find that completely heart-breaking ... I just find it really sad."

Mr Ablett, like many young men, learnt the rudimentary of relationships at school - "I wasn't until the AFL came around to the club at the Swans and said 'this is what rape is, this is what consent looks like' - that was the first time anyone had really sat down and explained to me what that was."

He was 23.

"Young boys often aren't getting that information," he says.

"Looking back there was a big gap in our education program because no-one really talks about what happens when you do have sex; it's just the mechanics of it.

"We found out about the mechanics of sex at school.

"It might have changed but back then it was 'put a condom on a banana', 'this is what the reproductive organs do'.

"There was nothing about consent, the relationship element of sex.

"No one really talked about what happens when you do have sex."

While schools play a huge role in influencing young people, Mr Ablett says parents and coaches must also step up.

"A lot of parents tell their daughters how to not get raped but no one is really telling young boys what rape is," he says.

"We expect boys to be sexually active and go out and hook up with girls and do all that kind of stuff and we expect our girls to do the opposite.

"We don't think young men are going to be victims of sexual assault but at the same time we never expect that our sons will be the ones doing it.

"Parents, teachers and coaches hold those same attitudes that the kids do so we need to get to everyone to challenge these ideas that have been around for a really long time about male dominance in a relationship."

It's unlikely domestic violence will be eradicated in Mr Ablett's life-time but he holds out hope that young men will start to get this message.

"It's really lovely being in a relationship that's healthy and respectful towards each other and if you give that respect to your partner you'll get it back in return and that's what a healthy relationship looks like," he says.

- APN Newsdesk


  • 33.3% of young people do not think that exerting control over someone else is a form of violence.
  • 25% of young people do not think it's serious when guys insult or verbally harass girls in the street.
  • 25% of young people think it is normal for guys to pressure girls into sex.
  • 15% of young people think it is okay for men to pressure girls into sex if both parties are drunk.
  • 25% of young people don't think it's serious if a guy, who's normally gentle, sometimes slaps his girlfriend when he's drunk and they're arguing.
  • More than one quarter of young people think it's important for men to be tough and strong.
  • 16% of young people think that women should know their place in society.


Source: Hall and Partners Open Mind/Our Watch.

Luke Ablett
Luke Ablett

SCHOOLS, parents and pop culture are letting our kids down
Sherele Moody

This is one of the shock findings from a survey of 3000 young people.

The Hall and Partners Open Mind research for the federally funded anti-domestic violence organisation Our Watch also reveals damning youth attitudes towards women.

The study, released on Friday, shows one-third of young people do not think that exerting control over someone else is a form of violence.

It reveals one-quarter of adolescents believe harassing and insulting girls is not serious and that it is normal to pressure young women into having sex.

More than one-quarter of those surveyed said men should be "tough and strong" and 16% thought "women should know their place".

"The study has shown that the social mores that continue to define youth relationships, along with the significant influence of social media, pornography and porn-inspired popular culture, are poor preparation for young people learning to negotiate sexual relationships," the report's introduction said.

The report said parents rarely discussed healthy relationships with their sons and some schools provided a basic "reading of the biology of reproduction (and risk of disease)" as sex education.

However, schools with relationship programs were having successful outcomes, the study found.

Australian Regional Media has been pushing for the Queensland and NSW governments to introduce respectful relationships in schools and domestic violence-specific courts.

The on-going Terror at Home campaign has been published across 12 regional daily newspapers, including this one, over the past eight weeks.

A Federal Government senate inquiry into domestic violence recently recommended respectful relationships classes be added to school curriculums.

Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research director Dr Annabel Taylor said the study proved schools needed these classes.

"A raft of things needs to be addressed and schools may need financial support in terms of introducing appropriate education programs," Dr Taylor said.

"One of the other challenges for schools is the pressure on the curriculum and where they can slot in the priority they give to this.

"While they've got competing demands ... this needs to be recognised as an output in the schooling system - just like maths and English.

"Relationship skills need to be recognised as core skills."

Our Watch ambassador, and former AFL player, Luke Ablett agreed that schools were a key influence on young people.

"I think there is a real lack of understanding of what domestic violence is," Mr Ablett told APN Newsdesk on Friday.

"Emotional abuse, manipulation, financial control and all those other controlling behaviours that act as warning signs that physical violence can happen in the future - so many people don't know what those things are.

"Schools are the most obvious places to teach that because they have influence over these young kids."

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash, said teenagers needed information, guidance and positive role models to address gender equality and build healthy relationships.

"In order to ensure our youth know how to conduct respectful relationships, it is essential to engage young people at the time they are first experiencing and forming attitudes about relationships - and that is when they are young."

Ms Cash's NSW counter-part Pru Goward said there was no "simple solution".

"There is no simple solution or single act that can prevent domestic violence, but having a dedicated (NSW government) ministry ensures there is an all of government approach in this important area," the Minister for Women said.

In Queensland, Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman said the state government was working on a "detailed response" to February's Not Now, Not Ever domestic violence report.

Ms Fentiman said culture and attitudes needed to change.

"We must all play a role in challenging behaviours and attitudes that feed the domestic violence cycle," she said.

"This is the responsibility of the whole community and extends beyond just legislation and government programs to our living rooms, pubs, clubs, parks, streets, and schools.

"When tackling domestic violence we absolutely have to make sure our young people grow up to become respectful adults."

Australian Greens Spokesperson for Women Senator Larissa Waters said society and governments must make violence a priority.

"The survey's results are deeply concerning," Ms Waters said.

"We must urgently prioritise changing attitudes of gender inequality, across all of society and especially in young people."

If you or someone you know needs help call DV Connect on 1800 811 811, DV Line on 1800 656 463 or 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).


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