Horror stat most Aussies don’t know about

The founder of a powerful consent education campaign says the number of young people subject to sexual assault or coercion is a national health crisis. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

The founder of a powerful consent education campaign says the number of young people subject to sexual assault or coercion is a national health crisis.

More than one in five women have been sexually assaulted since the age of 15, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

But, Chanel Contos told the National Press Club on Wednesday she didn’t believe the figure was accurate.

“The statistic feels wrong. It feels hollow and underwhelming compared to the reality,” she said.

“It doesn’t account for all those teens whose first sexual experience when they were 13 or 14 was void of consent.”

She said many people “resist to clarify” what happened to them for various reasons.

Contos shot to prominence after posting an Instagram story, asking followers if they, or someone they knew, had been sexually assaulted during their school years.

Contos addressed the National Press Club about the crisis. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

A day later, she received 200 responses. She would later go on to create the Teach Us Consent website.

“It’s now been signed by nearly 50,000 Australians, and almost 7000 people have posted their testimony of being sexually assaulted while of school age in Australia,” she said.

“A year later, I presented at a meeting with all ministers of education from around the country, and they unanimously agreed to mandate consent education from kindergarten, every year until year 10.”

In her address, Contos referred to a 2021 survey of 14 to 18 year olds that found 41 per cent of sexually active students have experienced unwanted sex.

It found the average age a person first had sex when they didn’t want to was at the age of 14.9, and 60 per cent of young people who experienced unwanted sex said it occurred in the context of an intimate relationship.

“I heavily question how these definitions differ from sexual assault and echo the point many girls and women don't want to identify their experiences with the word rape or sexual assault, especially when the perpetrator is someone close to them,” she said.

“This gives me every confidence to say rather than the national statistic of one in five Australian women since the age of 15 have been sexually assaulted, we can actually say that 45 per cent of young women sexually active before the age of 16 have been subjected to sexual assault or coercion.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and independent MP Allegra Spender attended the address. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“When we consider just shy of 70 per cent of Australian year 12 students have had sex, this is a national health crisis.”

Contos addressed the four types of rapists, the first three which are known as “sadistic, angry or compensating,” and said focus must be placed on the fourth type.

“Entitled opportunists are rapists who have high social competence, and they commit on impulse. Their offences are predatory acts that are unplanned and exhibit poor self-control,” she said.

“Their motivating factor doesn’t come from a place of malice or sadism, but their belief in entitlement to immediate sexual gratification, they’re confident, powerful, and opportunistic in other aspects of their lives, all values our society highly regards in men.”

She said this type of perpetrator most often offends for the first time as a teenager, and are unaware of the fact they’ve sexually assaulted someone until they’re older.

“The good news about this type of rapists, unlike the other three types, where psychological problems need to be addressed to prevent them from offending or reoffending, an entitled opportunist can be prevented by education on consent, and raising boys to be empathetic, particularly towards women.”