Australia’s chilling new domestic violence campaign shows young boys abusing girls

A still from the Australian government’s new ‘Respect’ TV ad, designed to stop domestic violence in future generations. Source: supplied

The federal government’s new domestic violence campaign, launched today, is confronting and distressing for an unexpected reason.

It targets how parents raise young boys.

There have been numerous campaigns attempting to reduce violence against women, including White Ribbon, and last year the federal government announced a $100 million women’s safety package.

Like an earlier government campaign against excessive drinking, which showed children mimicking the behaviour of their parents, the new $30 million domestic violence campaign rams home the message that changing attitudes starts in childhood with the slogan “stop it at the start”.

In the confronting opening scene of the TV ad, a young boy deliberately slams the door in a girl’s face.

“You’re OK,” the mum says to the girl. “He just did it because he likes you.”

As the boy grows, there are moments when his father says “don’t throw like a girl” and he takes a photo looking down a girl’s top without her permission, before as an adult, he’s in an abusive relationship.

“Violence against women starts with disrespect. The excuses we make allow it to grow,” the voiceover says as the adult man once more becomes the boy standing over a frightened woman.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull used his Instagram account to post the 15 second version of the ad, in which the young girl in the opening scheme rationalises what happend to her by saying “Yeah, I know mum, it’s just what boys do”.

Turnbull said: “As parents, one of the most important things we must do is ensure that our sons respect their mothers and their sisters”.

The campaign will run until 2018 and is jointly funded by the Australian, state and territory governments.

Social services minister Christian Porter said the campaign targeted how people “unknowingly excuse and therefore perpetuate the behavior that can lead to violence”.

“Our research shows that too often, adults believe that disrespectful or aggressive behaviour by young males towards young females is something that should be understood rather than judged and discouraged. Research shows adults often unwittingly excuse objectively unacceptable behaviour with notions such as ‘boys will be boys’,” he said.

Yesterday, Kate Jenkins, Australia’s new sex discrimination commissioner, said domestic violence would be one of her priorities and that people needed to act to stop the problem being passed onto the next generation.

“It should be of grave concern to us all, to know that it is our youth who are learning to accept and excuse violent attitudes to women and girls,” she said in her National Press Club address.

The “Respect” campaign rolls out this weekend on TV, radio and print.

Here’s a look at the 60 second version of the ad – and a warning, it may contain triggers for people who’ve experienced domestic violence.