Most of the chatter from Canberra has been around a new $101 million package to tackle domestic violence and the publication of new statistics about attitudes towards domestic violence. But in a radio interview with 2GB's Ben Fordham, Australia's Federal Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash, indicated that video games could also have a role to part in negative attitudes towards domestic violence.
The seven minute discussion, which has been made available on 2GB's website, begins by discussing the recently announced $101 million package to tackle domestic violence. The package is designed to improve frontline support services and the practical safety of women threatened by domestic violence, but the media blitz was also used as an opportunity to increase awareness about the attitudes of Australians that make domestic violence increasingly common.
"One in four young men believe that hitting a woman is a sign of strength. One in three young Australians believe it's OK to slap a woman if you've had a few drinks," the minister said. It's believed that the minister was quoting figures from VicHealth's Young Australians' Attitudes to Violence against Women survey released today, which surveyed 1923 Australians between the ages of 16 and 24 about their views on domestic violence.
Ben Fordham then quizzed the minister about values that are being instilled into Australian youths. "It was drilled into us by our dad, very early on from the moment we could understand anything he was saying, that boys don't hit girls," Fordham said. "Have we dropped off in teaching young boys this stuff?"
"I think it's not so much that we've dropped off, I think unfortunately society is exposed to so many different things these days," Cash replied. The minister then took exception with Grand Theft Auto and queried the potential for video games to influence the attitudes of Australian youths in ways that would foster domestic violence.
Linking Video Games To Domestic Violence
"I personally have a huge problem with the types of video games that young people are able to play. Grand Theft Auto is a perfect example of a video game that is exceptionally violent and yet it's something that young kids put on their Christmas wish list. So I think there are so many other influences now that we have to have a really, really good look at but I think the easiest way to sum it up is what the Prime Minister said today: disrespecting women is un-Australian, that's it."
Fordham returned to video games with his final question, asking the minister how much she was worried about games that were "played through a point of view" — "it's actually you running around and grabbing people and belting people with planks of wood, and shooting people and bashing women and all the other stuff that can go on in video games, and let alone the other games where you're shooting to kill and trying to kill as many people in a short space of time, how much does that worry you," he asked.
Cash replied by saying she was deeply worried, saying that the level of violence in games can desensitise players.
"And so you almost merge what is a computer game with reality," the minister responded. "I can disrespect a woman online and then you make that translation to, well I can disrespect a woman in life too because I no longer know what that line is. Ben I have a huge problem with video games, I don't believe I'm alone and I don't believe that I'm a prude."
The Influence Of Video Games On Children
"Video games are a lot of fun but video games that actively encourage a lot of young boys, and young girls, to make choices in how they treat a person, to bash them, to rape them, that is totally unacceptable and I do believe, and I think the Prime Minister himself has signalled, we as a government do need to have a look at this and understand the impact that these video games are having on our youth and in particular in them ultimately having those views that disrespect — and it's not just women, it'll be disrespecting men here as well. We need to get rid of that, quite frankly, from society."
The full survey, which was provided to Kotaku Australia by the department, only mentions video games once across its 90 pages. It features in the fourth section of the report, titled "Context for young peoples' attitudes — a look at the literature", and is contextualised by a sub-section about the impact that limited personal experience can have on the attitudes of younger people.
"Limited personal experience may also mean that young people are more affected by gendered media culture especially marketed at the young, such as music videos and video games that have been found to reproduce gender stereotypes (Dill & Thill 2007; Dunlop 2007) and, according to some research, to increase young viewers' tolerance of violence against women (Kaestle et al 2007)," the report says.
That research comes from a paper entitled "Music videos, pro wrestling and acceptance of date rape among middle school males and females: an exploratory analysis", which was printed in the Journal of Adolescent Health.