Most Australians would not act if they saw sexism
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Most Australians would not act if they saw sexism

Only 14 per cent of Australians are likely to do something if they identify a woman being targeted with sexism or disrespectful treatment, research has found.

Forty-seven per cent said they could recognise disrespect but would be "unlikely to do something", and 39 per cent said they would struggle to recognise it at all.

The national agency for the prevention of violence against women, Our Watch, which did research on 2000 people around the country, will launch a campaign today aimed at prompting those who witness disrespectful treatment to act.

The interactive campaign, ''Doing nothing does harm'', would encourage people not to remain passive, according to chief executive Patty Kinnersly.

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"I was not really surprised [so few people would step in]. We know people feel awkward in these situations and are not really sure if they're going to cause more harm or be called a ''party pooper''. One of the key aspects of 'Doing nothing does harm' is to give a spectrum of what people can do."

The Our Watch research found most people, 79 per cent, wanted practical tips on what bystanders could do to help.

Options presented include showing the victim you have seen how they are being treated and do not approve, speaking to the person dishing out the disrespect, or approaching the victim afterwards to support them.

Ms Kinnersly said it was important not to ignore such behaviour because accepting disrespectful treatment can set a tone in which violence against women is tolerated.

Our Watch chief executive Patty Kinnersly hopes the ''Doing nothing does harm'' campaign will get bystanders involved when they see disrespectful treatment of women.

Our Watch chief executive Patty Kinnersly hopes the ''Doing nothing does harm'' campaign will get bystanders involved when they see disrespectful treatment of women.

"Sexist attitudes and behaviours create an environment where violence against women is more likely; in an environment in which women are disrespected, some people take that right and don't draw the line," she said.

"The key thing that has been missing is what to do [if you see disrespect]. What we aim to do in this campaign is to give people really easy things to do; they can choose what is comfortable to them."

She said the evidence gathered by Our Watch suggested that "people want to take safe, healthy and positive bystander action; they see it and most want to do something."

The Australian ethos of "looking after a mate" does extend to standing up for women on the receiving end of bad treatment, and she hoped once the YouTube and online-based campaign was rolled out nationally more would choose to step up when needed.

The campaign is online at ourwatch.org.au/doingnothingdoesharm/home .

Wendy is the editor of Daily Life.

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