Violence Against Women
Violence against women is any act of gender-based violence that causes or could cause physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of harm or coercion, in public or in private life UN Declaration
In Australia, this can look like domestic, family and sexual violence.
There are alarming rates of violence experienced by Australian women; 1 in 3 women over the age of 15 are reported to experience intimate partner violence (including violence in cohabiting and non-cohabiting relationships, and emotional abuse), and over half of Australian women aged 24-30 have experienced sexual violence. The negative health outcomes that stem from experiences of gendered violence include poor mental health, issues with pregnancy and birth, alcohol and drug use, suicide, injuries, and homicide. Violence against women contributes to the disease burden in women aged 18-44 more than any other risk factor, and affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls five times more than non-Indigenous women.
Violence against women is preventable. To stop this violence, it is essential to know what causes it. There are four identified drivers, stemming from social conditions in our society. These drivers are:
- Condoning of violence against women
- Men’s control of decision making and limits to women’s independence in public and private life
- Rigid gender stereotyping and dominant forms of masculinity
- Male peer relations and cultures of masculinity that emphasise aggression, dominance and control
The infographic below shows these four drivers, along with the essential actions that can be taken to address the drivers, and work to prevent violence against women.
Condoning of violence against women
The first driver, condoning violence against women, is where violence is excused, justified, downplayed, or denied. This can also be where blame is placed on the victim, rather than the perpetrator. Condoning violence against women can look or sound like:
- Excusing the aggressive or mean behaviour of men or boys as “boys will be boys”,
- Sporting clubs allowing perpetrators of violence to continue playing with little consequence,
- Mistrusting women’s reports of violence,
- Sexual harassment policies that focus only on reporting and don’t factor in organisational duty of care or bystanders to take action.
Challenge the condoning of violence against women is the essential action to address this driver. This might look like:
- Changing workplace practices and policies to show organisational commitment and duty of care to taking sexual harassment seriously,
- Challenging the media’s portrayal of women’s reports of violence,
- Shift social norms and community attitudes that place blame on the victim or excuse, downplay, justify and deny violence.
Men’s control of decision making and limits to women’s independence
The second driver, men’s control of decision making and limits to women’s independence, is where women’s autonomy in both public and private life is constrained. This particularly includes situations or relationships where men have a sense of control or ownership of women. This driver can look or sound like:
- Believing that men make better or more capable bosses, executives or political leaders than women,
- Men’s dominance of speaking time,
- Expectations and beliefs of men being in charge of a relationship,
- Men’s dominance of leadership roles in organisations.
To address this driver, the essential action is to promote women’s independence and decision making. This can look like:
- Supporting all forms of women’s leadership through training, mentoring, and opportunities,
- Challenging the norms that enable and encourage men’s control and dominance across society,
- Implementing workplace gender equality strategies
Rigid gender stereotyping and dominant forms of masculinity
The third driver, rigid gender stereotyping and dominant forms of masculinity is where beliefs and assumptions about the roles, responsibilities, abilities, desires or interests of men and women are based on their gender. This can look and sound like:
- Assuming that women do the cooking and cleaning,
- Believing that men are the “breadwinner”, and women are the primary carer in the home,
- Double standards between men and women when assertiveness and leadership qualities are displayed,
- Less value placed on women’s sporting achievements,
- Messages like “man up”, “boys don’t cry” and “don’t be such a girl”.
The essential action to address this driver is build new social norms that foster personal identities not constrained by rigid gender stereotypes. This might look like:
- Supporting the awareness of gender stereotypes and tools to critique and reject gender roles, especially from young ages,
- Promoting gender equitable domestic and parenting practices at individual, organisational and workplace levels,
- Encouraging and promoting women and girls’ participation in sport and STEM.
Male peer relations and cultures of masculinity that emphasise aggression, dominance and control
The fourth driver, male peer relations and cultures of masculinity that emphasise aggression, dominance and control is where men and boys seek relationships and bonds to prove their masculinity through actions and behaviours that are sexist, disrespectful or hostile towards women. This can look and sound like:
- “Locker room talk” that is sexist and disrespects women being viewed as harmless and normal.
- Men and boys consuming and sharing violent and hardcore pornography or sharing photos of women without consent,
- Believing that sexism, gender discrimination and sexual harassment are parts of male dominated workplaces and professions,
- Using the sexualised objectification of women as a marketing strategy.
To address this driver, the essential action is to support men and boys to develop healthy masculinities and positive, supportive male peer relationships. This might look like:
- Implementing a holistic, whole school approach to respectful relationships education,
- Delivering training programs about bystander action and encouraging bystander action at all levels of society,
- Organisational policies that clearly show and demonstrate that gender discrimination and sexual harassment is not tolerated.
Watch Our Watch’s Change The Story video
We acknowledge that there are intersections of oppression and privilege beyond gender inequality that drive violence. Some of these intersections might include racism and colonialism, class discrimination, ageism, ableism, heteronormativity, homophobia and biphobia, and transphobia and cisnormativity.
For further reading, visit Our Watch, Safe and Equal, and The National Community Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women Survey