Violence against women is disturbingly widespread in Australia. Violence against women includes physical and/or sexual violence from a partner, family member, acquaintance or stranger. In Victoria, community surveys indicate that one in three women has experienced physical violence and one in five has been sexually assaulted.
Ten per cent of women report that their current partner has been violent; 36 per cent report violence in a past relationship. Almost one in four children have witnessed violence against their mother or stepmother. Other research suggests that up to one in three women has experienced childhood sexual assault.
Why is violence against women so common?
Community attitudes play a major role in either supporting or preventing violence against women.
Research shows that violence against women is more common in relationships, families, communities, institutions and societies where men have more power than women, where there are rigid expectations about men's and women's behaviour, and when there are pro-violence attitudes.
How can we prevent violence against women?
We can make a major difference to the lives of all women and girls by responding with belief and empathy to their experiences of violence. We need to understand the pattern of behaviours that characterise men’s violence and to become aware of the professional services that are available to support women who experience violence.
Violence against women can be prevented and begins with:
- individuals and the wider society acknowledging the extent of violence against women
- refusing to blame women for men’s actions
- insisting that our police, courts and other institutions uphold women’s and children’s rights
- holding men accountable for the violence they commit.
What is the range of violent behaviours against women?
In addition to obvious examples of family violence and sexual assault, other violent behaviours against women include:
- sexual harassment (common in workplaces, in schools and at sports and entertainment events), e.g. staring, leering, touching, requests for sexual favours, offensive jokes, intrusive questions
- sexting, stalking and bullying, threatening to ‘out’ people or to infect them with an STD
- some culturally specific practices such as female genital cutting, so-called ‘honour’ killing and forced marriage
- being trafficked into prostitution
- rape as a weapon in war (experienced by many women and children who have come to Australia as refugees).
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