Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Girls are not to blame for their own exploitation

  • 24 August 2016


Over the past week, cases involving the abuse or exploitation of adolescent female sexuality have glaringly exposed how deeply entrenched victim blaming attitudes are in Australia.

First, there was the police response to the exposure of an online site posting thousands of explicit images of underage girls without their knowledge or consent. Queensland Police concluded that the site did not 'appear to contain any child exploitation material', and one young woman told Triple J's Hack program that she had received exceptionally short shrift from police when she made a complaint about her image being on the site: 'The guy I spoke to, an older guy, just laughed pretty much. He said that's what I get for taking them'.

The police response was echoed by Kambrya College after news.com.au reported that images of some of its female students appeared on the pornographic site. In a righteously indignant Facebook post that went viral, Catherine Manning, the parent of a Kambrya student, described how all years 7–10 girls were ordered at a specially convened assembly 'to check the length of their skirts' because 'the boys are distracted by their legs, and that boys don't respect girls who wear short skirts'.

She demanded, 'Stop letting boys off the hook for their appalling behaviour. Address the culture that encourages sexist and misogynist attitudes, but don't demonise our girls.'

Principal Michael Muscat's acknowledgement that the 'separate issues' of school uniform and the pornographic site should not have been linked at the same assembly hopefully indicates the school will immediately institute a policy of not using blaming language.

The week concluded with yet another demonstration of the pervasiveness of victim blaming, this time in the Victorian County Court.

As reported by The Age, when sentencing Franco Abad, a 32-year-old man convicted of knowingly having sex with a 14-year-old girl he met outside the Children's Court while employed there as a security guard, Judge Christopher Ryan said, 'the girl had appeared "worldly" and "older than her years" when she told the court about their sexual relationship in a "matter-of-fact" way via video link'.

The girl's 'worldliness' was possibly the result of a troubled childhood: at the time of Abad's offences she was in state care. Her attendance at the Children's Court should surely have indicated her potential vulnerability.


"In one 1955 Victorian case, an 11-year-old girl was branded a 'temptress' by Judge Cussen for having sex with two adult men. He demanded, 'Can't anybody do anything