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'A Broken Record': Half Of Young Women Feel Unsafe At Night

There are calls for urgent action as yet more evidence casts light on the concerning number of young women in Australia who feel unsafe being alone at night.

Almost half of women surveyed said they felt unsafe walking alone after dark in 2018, in a new poll from charity Mission Australia.

For 20-year-old university student Tiana Sixsmith, the statistics and countless media stories of innocent women being attacked while doing something as simple as walking home feel like a broken record.

"It's starting to feel like it's a constant," she told 10 daily.

"We're seeing it being talked about more and more, which is a good thing, but it also makes us feel less safe."

She said the findings from Mission Australia's 2018 Youth Survey were equally unsurprising.

Image: Getty

The charity compiles the report annually,  tracking aspirations, values, concerns and ambitions of the country's youth.

This year, almost 30,000 responses from people aged 15 to 19 found heightened concerns around personal safety among young women.

Almost 47 percent of women reported feeling unsafe or very unsafe in their communities, compared to just 18 percent of men.

Young women were also more likely to report personal safety as a concern, with twice the proportion of them citing it as a potential barrier to moving out of home than young men (28.2 percent and 13.2 percent respectively).

Sixsmith is one of those women.

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She has noticed the gender differences by way of how her parents discussed the issue with her and her four brothers.

"My brothers could do what they wanted, but for me, it was always a constant bombardment of instructions," she said.

"For me, it was 'make sure you're not walking alone, make sure you get an Uber, make sure you're on the phone'."

These are all precautions Sixsmith, and countless other women, take at night to protect themselves.

They were highlighted in a soundtrack released by Plan International Australia last month -- a chilling, immersive soundscape aimed to at allowing men to put themselves in women's shoes.

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It was part of a broader campaign to make public spaces safer and more accessible, and followed the murder of international student Aiia Maasarwa in Melbourne.

"There are a lot of places where women don’t feel safe," Plan International CEO Susanne Legan told 10 daily at the time.

"But there are also a lot of young men who didn't realise the kind of fear women are subjected to."

International student Aiia Masarwa was murdered on her way home from a night out in Melbourne.

These are sentiments echoed by Mission Australia CEO James Toomey, who called for an urgent spotlight on what young women have repeatedly called out.

"This is not okay, young females should not have to tolerate feeling unsafe as they go about their day to day lives," he said.

"Young women and men should be able to participate in activities and connect with their friends in their communities with equal confidence."

The charity is calling on governments and organisations to prioritise place-based approaches to improve feelings of community safety, among other recommendations regarding mental health, stress and body image.

It also wants trial policies co-designed by young people.

Sixsmith agrees, saying young women still aren't being heard.

"I think we are reaching a point now where we are realising that the way we have been addressing this issue isn't working," she said.

"I think solutions need to be co-designed so that males, females and those who identity as non-binary can have a say -- and we can stop perpetuating the stereotype that women are always the victim."

Contact the author ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au.

Featured image: Getty