Media violence desensitises young people, says youth advocate

Influential bands that advocate rape are impacting on young minds, says youth advocate, Fr Chris Riley, as it is revealed today that one youth in the notorious Werribee DVD is a student at a Geelong Catholic college.

Sydney-based Fr Riley was commenting on the police investigation into the teen-made DVD which depicts the sexual assault and degradation of a 17-year-old girl in Melbourne's western suburb of Werribee by a gang of up to 12 youths.

Excerpts from the DVD, which has been sold for $5 in schools, show the group surrounding the girl, described as being developmentally delayed, and bullying her to perform sex acts. They also urinated on her and set her hair alight.

Teen violence is prevalent in society, Sydney-based Fr Riley says, as is apparent from the Werribee DVD.

The DVD - which was published on the video sharing website YouTube - also shows the teenage boys in fist fights, making chlorine-filled bombs, and abusing a homeless man.

"What we saw on this DVD, we can see on free-to-air television on a daily basis," Fr Riley told the Catholic Weekly.

"This desensitises young people to violence and feeds what I call the 'cognitive distortion' that kicks into kids like this.

"Their self talk, the reinforcement by their mates, and reading the newspaper and other media leads them to believe that there is nothing wrong with what they did," he says.

Certain bands and their provocative film clips are also to blame for inciting violence, says Fr Riley.

He says: "There are some influential bands who advocate rape and abuse of women and this impacts on young minds."

Adolescent drug use is another catalyst for abuse and violence, he added.

"One of the most significant environment enhancers that has violence as an outcome is the use of drugs," he says.

Fr Riley's comments come as Geelong Info reports that one of the youths who appeared in the Werribee DVD is a student at St Joseph's, Geelong.

But the college is standing by the student and has taken no action against him.

School principal Paul Tobias yesterday said it was his understanding that the student who appeared in the DVD was not one of those responsible for alleged criminal acts performed in Werribee.

In a speech to assembled students last week and obtained by the Geelong Advertiser, Mr Tobias said he did not know all the facts of the student's involvement with the DVD and that it was the role of the police to determine who was responsible.

"(It is) not the role of the school or any of you," Mr Tobias told the student body.

The speech appears in a copy of the school's November newsletter, published today.

In the speech the principal labels the content of the DVD as "disgusting" and said that the prosecution of those involved should be left to the courts.

"When all the facts are known, the school will make a decision in terms of its response," he said.

Violence in media danger to young, Fr Chris warns (Catholic Weekly, 5/11/06)
Joeys boy in Werribee DVD (Geelong Info, 3/11/06)
St Joseph's College Newsletter (3/11/2006)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Youth off the Streets
St Joseph's College, Geelong

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3 Nov 2006