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The Lady Musgrave Trust

Sec, control and homelessness panel

Sex, control and homelessness: How do unhealthy sexual attitudes and behaviours begin?

By | Blog

Positively shaping sexual attitudes and behaviours is essential to building respectful relationships. But how do unhealthy behaviours begin, and what are the risks if we don’t take action?

Domestic and family violence is the primary reason women and children seek specialist homelessness services. That’s why the theme of The Lady Musgrave Trust 14th Annual Forum on Women & Homelessness was ‘The pathway to homelessness for women in Queensland – a story of coercive control, violence and systematic disadvantage’.

Domestic and family violence doesn’t occur in a vacuum. There are certain attitudes that lead to the use of violent and coercive behaviours – and these attitudes can start forming early.

In the first panel of this year’s Forum, our speakers discussed how pornography can help develop unhealthy attitudes towards sexuality at an early age – and the tragic impact that these unhealthy attitudes can have on relationships.

How does pornography influence attitudes towards sex and relationships?

Professor Melissa Bull, the Director of the QUT Centre for Justice, hosted the panel discussion. She began by citing an Our Watch report that identified nearly half (48 per cent) of young men have seen pornography by the age of 13, and nearly half (48 per cent) of young women by the age of 15.

“On average, young men are viewing pornography for the first time three years before they get into their first sexual relationship,” Professor Bull said. “So that’s where they learn about what they might think of as ‘intimacy’.”

The Our Watch report notes that pornography can influence young people’s views and attitudes at a time in their lives when they’re still developing an understanding about sex and sexual relationships. That’s of concern to those working to prevent violence against women and promote respectful relationships and gender equality, because research suggests pornography use can be associated with less progressive attitudes about gender roles, and a belief that women are sex objects.

“The young age of initial access, especially by boys, to content that’s violent and controlling; content that represents women in submissive stereotypes; and content that promotes highly risky practices, contributes to feeding unrealistic and even illegal expectations of many young people, long before they enter into relationships,” Professor Bull said.

“It shapes the way they think about intimacy. It impacts on their attitudes and expectations, particularly with regards to entitlement and the important matter of consent.”

Professor Bull said the increasing ease of access to pornography is also a factor.

“There has been a transformation,” she said. “When I started my career, I worked for the Australian Institute of Criminology. One of my tasks was to think about how to regulate pornography, which, back then, was in magazines and videos – and the Australian Classification Board used to look at everything. But enter the internet… and now it’s easy, it’s fast, it’s cheap, it’s borderless, it’s abundant, it’s unlimited and it’s unregulated. And so that presents challenges, particularly in relation to young people.”

Kerrin Bradfield, a clinical sexologist and Education and Engagement Coordinator for the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence, told the panel that pornography – in which women are often depicted as submissive and willing to comply with the demands of males – is impacting the way the young people she works with view consent.

“We work with young women from the age of 14 years and up at the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence, and we’re seeing a lot of young girls presenting with very adult experiences of sexual experiences,” she said.

“That’s been a big shift in the last five to 10 years. And what we’re seeing in that space, in our work with these young women, is that there’s real confusion around where the line is, and what actually constitutes enthusiastic consent.

“It’s a complication that pornography certainly plays a role in. Pornography does tend to have a very predictable and homogenous script, where violence is met with pleasure, or at best, a neutral response, from the recipient of that violence. So when people are soaked in that narrative and that sexual script, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to put a name to their own experience.

“They might say, ‘Oh, what happened to me wasn’t that bad’, or ‘I don’t really qualify to access a service like this’, instead of seeing that any violation of their boundaries, any crossing of their consent and limitations, should actually be viewed and should be identified as non-consensual. That it was a form of violence and harm.”

Sheryl Batchelor, the Founder of Yiliyapina Indigenous Corporation, pointed out that young minds are particularly susceptible to outside influences.

“There are certain critical times,” she said. “What really concerns me about that 10-14 age group is that’s when neuroplasticity is like a sponge – it’s the time when we can make the most difference.”

How do attitudes towards sex and relationships influence the path towards domestic and family violence?

The Our Watch report notes that there are four expressions of gender inequality that consistently predict higher rates of violence against women – also known as ‘drivers’ of violence against women:

  • Rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity
  • Men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence in public and private life
  • Condoning of violence against women
  • Male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women

The report notes that pornography use has been shown to have an impact on subsequent attitudes regarding gender roles and relationships, and men’s use of sexually aggressive behaviours.

“This, then, leads into the development of acceptance of coercive behaviours,” Professor Bull told the panel.

“We still live in a society where women and men are not equal. As long as this is the case, women will disproportionately find themselves in controlling relationships – and if they leave, the price is homelessness.”

Kerrin Bradfield added that it’s important for people to understand the link between sexual violence and homelessness.

“Homelessness is both a cause and a consequence of sexual violence,” she said. “For young women who have experiences of intimate partner sexual violence; who have had childhood sexual abuse perpetrated in their home; or sexual violence perpetrated by someone they live with, this often leads them to sleep rough, to put them at risk of homelessness, or to force them to move into unsafe transitional sharehousing.

“These forms of accommodation that lack safety are then, in and of themselves, often a cause of further experiences of victimisation and sexual violence.

“We know that vulnerability is intersectional. It’s a complex melting pot that pornography is a part of, but we need to look at the broader picture as well.”

How can we encourage healthy attitudes towards sex and relationships?

The Our Watch report notes that the influence of pornography on young people isn’t uniform – it’s moderated by individual characteristics and circumstances, and affected by a broader cultural context, which means it’s just one risk factor among many others for the development of unhealthy attitudes and behaviours.

“There are a lot of people who watch pornography who don’t equate intimacy with violence,” Bradfield said. “We’re looking at a subset of people who already have attitudes that are disrespectful; that represent inequality; that are supportive of violence against women; and align closely with those drivers of gender-based violence. Those people are then watching pornography and being emboldened in these pre-existing attitudes and beliefs.

“So when we look at younger people who may still be forming those attitudes, a lot of contextual factors come into play. It could be the absence of solid role models throughout a search for identity in developmental years.

“It could be the complete lack of sexual education – a lack of discussion around sexuality and education about sex as pleasure-based, as equal, as mutual. Those things are missing, which allows pornography to become the loudest voice in the room. The absence of any other information gives pornography a platform to speak to young people in their formative years.

“There’s a multi-directional relationship between holding violence-supportive attitudes; watching pornography; and the pornography itself becoming more disrespectful and more violent, reinforcing those attitudes. It’s a back-and-forth relationship… but when we look at where these attitudes come from, they start early.

“There is an increasing difficulty with young people whose entire developmental experience has been influenced by pornography, as well as social media and a society in general that has become much more sexualised. We’re increasingly seeing the commodification of female pleasure for male pleasure… and that’s being reinforced by TikTok, by Instagram, by all these forms of media that have something to say to young people that they should be hearing from trusted adults.

“It’s not young people’s fault that pornography and the online world have become their only source of sexual education – they just don’t have better options.”

Australian Federal Police Commander Hilda Sirec, who works with the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, said the “hyper-sexuality” of media is encouraging children to “self-generate” exploitation material .

“There’s a desentistation about what’s appropriate to send online,” she said, “and that’s driving children and young people to generate and send their own exploitative material.”

Commander Sirec encouraged parents to be aware of what their children are doing online, and the kind of material they’re being exposed to.

“Life is synonymous with being online,” she said. “We’re not going to get away from that. But research shows that only 52 per cent of parents and carers actually know about online safety, and know what their children are doing online. So I would just ask that instead of asking how your child’s day went, ask them how their day went online. You need to know what’s happening there.”

Ultimately, of course, the blame for sexual violence must fall on the perpetrators – regardless of what influenced their attitudes.

“We need to hold perpetrators to account,” Bradfield told the panel. “I think we know that most of them are serial offenders, and they have multiple victims. The sooner we can interrupt that pattern and hold them to account, the better the outcome will be.”

From Nowhere To Go to Know Where To Go: The Lady Musgrave Trust and Small Steps 4 Hannah launch online Handy Guide for Queensland women in need

By | Blog, Homelessness, News | No Comments

The Lady Musgrave Trust, Queensland’s oldest charity and champion for homeless women, has partnered with Small Steps 4 Hannah to launch an online information and service directory for Queensland women in need.

Speaking at The Lady Musgrave Trust’s 14th Annual Forum for Women and Homelessness, held at QUT Gardens Point Campus, Small Steps 4 Hannah Founders Sue and Lloyd Clarke said the online Handy Guide will connect women with the support and services they need to escape domestic violence and find safety.

The murder of Sue and Lloyd’s daughter Hannah Clarke, and their grandchildren Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey, shocked the world in February 2020 and has become a ‘line in the sand’ moment for domestic violence in Australia.

“If Hannah had something like the online Handy Guide, it would have been so helpful for her,” Sue Clarke told attendees at the Forum.

“She didn’t know where to go. She didn’t know where to look. She didn’t know what to do… if she’d have had access to a one-stop shop like this website, it would have been invaluable.”

The Lady Musgrave Trust, which helps Queensland women and their children get back on their feet and find safe and secure housing, has been producing physical copies of The Handy Guide since 2009.

In that time, it has become an indispensable service directory for at-risk women and their children, and an important resource for governments, hospitals and not-for-profit organisations.

The Trust received funding from theSmall Steps 4 Hannah Foundation and the Queensland Community Foundation, which contributed to the costs of developing an online version of the Handy Guide – making this essential resource even more readily available and accessible.

Louise Kelly, President of The Lady Musgrave Trust, said the online Handy Guide will provide help for women when they need it most.

“The online Handy Guide will provide knowledge, and therefore power, to women who may have thought they had lost their power and had nowhere to go,” Ms Kelly said. “And that will make women safer.”

Ms Kelly said The Lady Musgrave Trust will continue to print and distribute physical copies of the Handy Guide.

“It will continue to evolve alongside the online version,” she said. “Regardless of if you’re using the online version or the hard copy, we want this to be an accessible platform for women to be connected to the services they need.”

Held to coincide with Homelessness Week (1-7 August), The Lady Musgrave Trust’s Annual Forum for Women and Homelessness brings together representatives from the Queensland Government and organisations across the homelessness sector to collaborate on making Queensland the country’s safest state for women.

The theme of this year’s event, held in person and viewable live online, was ‘The pathway to homelessness for women in Queensland – a story of coercive control, violence and systemic disadvantage’.

“We weren’t aware of coercive control,” Sue Clarke said. “We saw the consequences, we saw the damage it did, but we didn’t know it had a name. We wanted to help start the conversation, and help everyone to understand what coercive control was.”

At any one time there are more than 10,000 women in Queensland who are experiencing homelessness, a number that is believed to be underreported.

Domestic and family violence is the primary reason women and children seek specialist homelessness services, which is why The Lady Musgrave Trust remains active after 137 years in helping find women and their children a home to shelter and live their lives in security and safety.

“On the one hand, it’s wonderful that The Lady Musgrave Trust is 137 years old and still going strong,” The Lady Musgrave Trust CEO Victoria Parker told attendees at today’s forum.

“On the other hand, it’s a tragedy that The Trust is still necessary.”

The online Handy Guide, created by The Lady Musgrave Trust with support from Small Steps 4 Hannah and Queensland Community Foundation, can be viewed now at

Donate to The Lady Musgrave Trust at

Karen speaking at the Forum

Karen Lyon Reid retires after six years as the head of The Lady Musgrave Trust

By | Blog, News

After more than half a decade of service, our CEO Karen Lyon Reid has retired from The Lady Musgrave Trust.

Karen served as CEO of The Lady Musgrave Trust for the past six years, and was on the board prior to that. We would like to recognise and thank Karen for her service and commitment to fighting women’s homelessness and improving the lives of young women in Queensland.

“Karen has been an exceptional leader of The Lady Musgrave Trust for many years, first as a Director and then as CEO,” The Lady Musgrave Trust President Louise Kelly says. “She has put her heart and soul into ensuring that The Lady Musgrave Trust is able to continue providing accommodation and services to women in QLD who are at risk of homelessness.

We acknowledge Karen’s leadership and commitment to helping women in need. During this time she has been a true guardian of the legacy of The Lady Musgrave Trust.

Over this six years, the Trust has:

  • Purchased 11 units to provide accommodation for women and their children in crisis
  • Produced and distributed 60,000+ Handy Guides for Queensland women in need
  • Secured funding for, developed and distributed The Handy Guide for Older Women
  • Secured funding for and began developing a Handy Guide for women experiencing domestic and family violence
  • Secured funding for and worked towards the digitisation of the Handy Guides for multiple audiences
  • Managed annual fundraising events, as well as the Annual Forum for Women and Homelessness, which pivoted to a national online event in 2021

Karen at the Cocktail Party with Keystone representative

Karen’s work was driven by the impact The Lady Musgrave Trust could have on women in the community.

“It has been a pleasure continually developing the Trust, along with the Board, to make a difference to a woman’s life,” she says. “To change their path, so they can lead a healthier and happier life.”

“I would like to thank all of those who supported myself and the Trust over the years and those who worked closely with me to achieve what we did.”

Stepping into the role as CEO is Victoria Parker. Before joining the Lady Musgrave Trust, Victoria managed her own consultancy specialising in social impact and community engagement, with a particular focus on community, family, and housing-related clients. Over the last five years Victoria has played a leadership role in several flagship community-focused projects, including Logan Together – one of Australia’s largest child and family development programs.

Victoria has until recently served as the Chair of the Lady Bowen Trust, a charitable trust that helps Queenslanders find safe and stable housing. She is looking forward to pouring her skills, experience, and energy into achieving the vision of The Lady Musgrave Trust.

While we are sad to see Karen go, we wish her the best for her next chapter, and we’re sure she’ll bring the same winning approach to her future endeavours that she brought to The Lady Musgrave Trust.

LMT and Small Steps for Hannah

“The Lady Musgrave Trust thank Karen for her service and wish her all the best in her retirement,” Louise says.

Thank you, Karen.