Abuse and discrimination come in many forms.
We broke it down into 10 major categories and then asked 1367 Gen Zs aged 15 to 24 in our national Big Youth survey which they had experienced in the past year.
We found that 64% of young Australians have experienced one or more of these in the past 12 months, while a little over a third (36%) said they hadn’t experienced any of them.
We found at the top of the list was sexism which 30% of Australian youth said they had experienced in the past 12 months, followed by homophobia (23%), sexual harassment (23%), receiving unsolicited nude photos/videos (20%), being asked unwantedly to send nude photos/videos (20%), in-person bullying (19%), racism (16%), online bullying (15%), ableism (7%) and transphobia (7%).
A 15-year-old female from Western Australia in response to the survey revealed the sexual harassment and sexism she experienced.
“Usually it is old white men who stare at me, sneer, snigger, make a rude comment, about/at me,” she said.
“It makes me angry because they haven’t been brought up to respect others, then I remember that their children have probably been taught the same concepts. This is not OK and my heart drops into my stomach when I think this thought, and of the place the world will be taken.”
A 19-year-old female from NSW told us what she experienced as she was just finishing up her gap year including a 4 month solo trip through Europe.
“Whilst on my trip I experienced a large amount of catcalling and was also harassed by a man who publicly masturbated to me on the street,” she said.
“I also experienced what I realise in hindsight was non-consensual sex. This has made me reconsider and evaluate my self perception and how I am perceived by others.
“These experiences made me question whether men (specifically) view me as an actual human being or rather just an object of their sexual desires and fantasies. This is a very complicated issue for me and something I’m really trying to understand.”
A 15-year-old male from South Australia told us how homophobia had impacted him.
“I have received forms of harassment and discrimination as of recently e.g. homophobia, assault and threats and it really has taken a huge toll on my life,” he said.
“Now I barely leave my house to go on public transportation by myself and (I’m) even scared to do so with friends.”
Meanwhile, a 17-year-old male from Western Australia said how he had experienced racial discrimination and harassment both in public and in the classroom.
“(There have been) moments where I’ve been met with disgusted looks by the public in a shopping mall, or being held back by security to check my bag before leaving the store,” he said.
“However the most crazy experiences I’ve had are with Caucasian teachers using the N word in English class and around other students with the excuse of it being used in a text or because they have the right to say it just as any black person can say it.
“It leads me to question why some people feel like their skin colour has some liberation amongst another skin colour.”
However, an 18-year-old trans male from NSW told us how he’d used the negativity for a positive.
“The discrimination I’ve faced in the past (homophobia, transphobia) has led me to become the person I am today,” he said.
“All of the anti-trans bills and discourse I’ve seen this year has given me more perspective and I now feel more passionate about what I want to contribute to: social work, helping LBGTQIA+ youth like me, activism etc.
“I spent my adolescence being ashamed and guilty and quiet, but now as an adult I feel empowered and self-confident and open to new experiences, which is mostly because of what my past has presented me with.”
If you’re seeking crisis support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. More information and support with mental health is available at Beyond Blue.org.au and on 1300 22 4636. Embrace Multicultural Mental Health supports people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.