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Defence boss creates firestorm with warning to 'alone, attractive' first-year cadets

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Australia’s top military officer is under fire for suggesting first-year cadets should avoid being alone and attractive to ward off sexual predators.

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The Canberra Times reports that Defence chief Angus Campbell told trainee officers to avoid the “four As” – alcohol, out after midnight, alone and attractive.

 

Australian of the Year Grace Tame, who is a sexual assault survivor and advocate, criticised the remarks after making a powerful speech at the National Press Club about her child abuse experience.

“I’m not judge, jury and executioner, but that’s not helpful rhetoric at all,” she told the Press Club on Wednesday.

“That feeds the idea that this is something that a victim has to foresee and stop themselves, as if they’re to blame. That is really unhelpful.”

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the focus should be on changing the behaviour of men rather than women.

“Sexual violence is a scourge in our community and men have to take responsibility for changing their action,” he told reporters in NSW.

“In terms of leadership, right throughout the community, people should feel safe.”

He said people should be able to go out at night and have fun on an equal basis.

Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally said the implication from General Campbell’s comments was women were responsible for avoiding rapes.

“Let’s be clear – women are never responsible for not being raped. Men are responsible for not raping women,” she told Sky News on Wednesday.

Senator Keneally urged the chief of defence to reflect on his statements and consider improving his communication.

“It’s clumsy language,” she said.

Defence defended General Campbell’s remarks despite criticism from sexual assault support groups.

“In his recent address to the new cohort of ADFA trainee officers, the CDF noted matters in the media regarding allegations of sexual harassment and assault,” Defence said in a statement.

“In his view, being aware of the four As – young attractive people, noting the entire class fell into this risk factor, alcohol, after midnight and alone – enabled the group to recognise and mitigate the threat posed by abusive or predatory individuals.”

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