Clementine Ford covered a range of topics during her speech at Ulumbarra Theatre on Saturday. Picture: GLENN DANIELSRelated: Bali Nine lawyer, Ombudsman and judge discuss justice in Victoria
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CHANGING the law starts with changing attitudes, and changing the way women are often blamed for sexual assault against them is crucial to curbing crime against women.

That was the message from writer and feminist activist Clementine Ford, who spoke at a forum on gender and diversity in Bendigo on Saturday.

She used her speech to address allegations that she is a “man hater” for her views on rape and rape culture.

Ms Ford speaks regularly about the Jill Meagher case, in which she objects to the view that Ms Meagher would have been safer had she walked home with a male colleague.

She points to statistics which show most victims are sexually assaulted by men known to them, rather than by strangers lurking in “dark alleyways”.

“I don’t believe that men in groups, or individuals, will be so provoked by the sight of a girl in a short skirt that they’ll be motivated to assault her,” Ms Ford said.

“Funnily enough, that is what the narrative around rape culture believes.

“That’s language that creates the idea that men are just rapists waiting for an opportunity.”

She said when people respond to sexual assaults with comments like, ‘Look at what she was wearing. How much did she drink? Why was she talking to him? Why did she go into his house?’, it creates the perception that men cannot control themselves.

Victim blaming, including during court judgements in rape cases, also came in for criticism from Ms Ford.

Her comments came during the forum at Ulumbarra Theatre, which also included Victoria’s first gender and discrimination commissioner Rowena Allen, and retired Supreme Court judge Howard Nathan.

Rowena Allen discussed the new role, and the goals during her time as commissioner.

One of the goals was for Victoria to become a leader in Australia for gender diversity.

“We’ve come a long way already, but we still have a long way to go,” she said.

“As Tim Wilson said to me once, Victoria is a bubble. It’s not like Queensland. But what we have to do is to be the leader, because so many states are so far behind us.”

The forum was part of Talking Justice, a series of events run by the Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre, under the banner of ARC Justice.

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