Drive down family and sexual violence

The best way to change attitudes, beliefs and behaviours is to use the same messages in different settings – where people live, work, learn and socialise, including online.

To achieve our vision of ending family and sexual violence, we need to stop people using violence and abuse in the first place.

This means challenging deeply held attitudes, beliefs and gender stereotypes. It also means changing systems and structures that discriminate and enable this violence.

This is what we mean by primary prevention. It is complex, long-term work that requires all parts of our community to work together.

The latest evidence shows that Australians now understand more about violence against women and gender inequality. Their attitudes about this violence and inequality are also improving [1]. But progress is slow. Attitudes, beliefs and stereotypes are not shifting easily [1].

  • 41 per cent of Australians believe that domestic violence is equally committed by men and women [1]. Yet it is mostly men who use violence, regardless of the gender of the victim [2].
  • One-third of Australians believe that it is common for sexual assault accusations to be used as a way of getting back at men. This is not what the evidence tells us [1].

Build a community-wide approach to preventing family and sexual violence

The best way to change attitudes, beliefs and behaviours is to use the same messages in different settings – where people live, work, learn and socialise, including online.

This requires coordinated messages and activities that are reinforced in many different places at the same time. These messages and activities need to be tailored, accessible and engaging for people of different ages, identities, abilities, perspectives and backgrounds.

We will continue our nation-leading work to advance gender equality. This includes changing systems, structures, policies and laws that enable gender inequality and other forms of discrimination, such as racism, ageism and homophobia to continue. This will help achieve large-scale, long-lasting change.

Many organisations already work to prevent violence. They include local councils, early childhood services, schools, universities, TAFEs, health and sports organisations, sports clubs and groups from diverse communities. We now need to embed these efforts and connect this work to make change happen faster.

Support Aboriginal-led prevention

Aboriginal women, communities and organisations have a long history working to prevent family violence. They know the prevention activities that will be best for their communities.

Violence against Aboriginal people is connected to the ongoing effects of colonisation, dispossession, child removal and trauma that have been passed on through generations. Aboriginal people also experience racism and discrimination in the community and in the way systems, structures and government policies operate.

This is why we need a long-term, community-wide approach to preventing violence against Aboriginal women and children. Aboriginal people and organisations need to lead this work and we will support and partner with them in this. This includes transferring power and resources to them through the Treaty process and beyond.

Aboriginal children and young people need access to Aboriginal-led education initiatives that target the specific drivers of violence against them. We also need to improve early intervention for Aboriginal men who are at risk of using violence. These programs need to be holistic and culturally relevant.

We need to partner with Aboriginal communities to make sure the broader work we do to prevent violence across the community is culturally safe and appropriate.

Engage men and boys to change attitudes and behaviours that can lead to violence

Most violence perpetrated against people of any gender is committed by men [3]. We need to change men’s behaviour if we are to stop family and sexual violence. This means challenging harmful ideas about masculinity that are associated with violence. These ideas connect masculinity with dominance, control and aggression [4].

Men need to be part of the solution. They need to become allies in this work. Ending family and sexual violence is everyone’s responsibility.

We must challenge these ideas at critical development stages. This includes engaging with young men and boys as they are developing their identity, values and patterns of behaviour.

Boys and young men who develop positive ideas about masculinity are more likely to have respectful and healthy relationships free from violence.

References

[1] ANROWS (Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety) 2023, Attitudes matter: the 2021 National Community Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women Survey, accessed 13 June 2023.

[2] State of Victoria 2021c, MARAM practice guides: foundation knowledge guide – about family violence, accessed 8 June 2023.

[3] Our Watch 2019, Men in focus: summary of evidence in review, accessed 7 June 2023.

[4] Safe and Equal 2020, Rigid gender roles and stereotypes, accessed 22 June 2023.

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