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Both men and women experience violence in Australia. 

But the violence experienced by women is different in terms of what form the violence takes, its severity and its impact; and that it is most often committed by a current or former male partner. 

Men are more likely to experience violence from other men in public places, but the vast majority of domestic or family violence and sexual assault is perpetrated by men against women.

Some people believe that this sort of violence is none of their business because it happens in private, or think that there’s nothing they can do to help.

This is not the case. Read on to learn how you can help. 

What drives violence against women?

Violence against women is serious and prevalent. It is primarily driven by gender inequality, and reinforced or exacerbated by a number of other factors. 
Gender inequality is a situation in which women and men do not have equal power, resources or opportunities, and that their voices, ideas and work are not valued equally by society.

Gender inequality provides the underlying social conditions for violence against women. It operates at many levels – from social and cultural norms (the dominant ideas about men and women in a society), to economic structures (such as the pay gap between men and women), to organisational, community, family and relationship practices. 

This broad social context of gender inequality produces a number of specific gendered drivers of violence against women. The strongest of these are:

  • Condoning of violence against women – for example, the idea that it is excusable for men to use violence in certain circumstances, that they cannot always be held responsible, or that some kinds of violence (such as sexual harassment) are not serious.
  • Men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence in public life and relationships – for example, the idea that men should be the head of the household and decide how money is spent.
  • Rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity – the idea that women and men and girls and boys should act in certain ways or fulfill certain roles.
  • Disrespect towards women and male peer relations that emphasise aggression – for example, the way some groups of men ‘bond’ or seek to prove their ‘manhood’ or ‘masculinity’ through actions that are disrespectful, hostile or aggressive towards women.

While the broad social context of gender inequality provides the underlying conditions and drivers of violence against women, a number of reinforcing factors can contribute to or exacerbate this violence. These include:

  • The condoning of violence in general, which sees violence normalised or valorised as an expression of masculinity.
  • Experience of or exposure to violence (such as in childhood, or in communities with high levels of violence).
  • Situations in which the social norms associated with alcohol use weaken positive social behavior (for example drinking cultures that emphasise male conquest and aggression and social norms and attitudes that position men’s drinking as an excuse for violence, or women’s drinking as a form of victim blaming).
  • Socio-economic inequality and discrimination.
  • The ‘backlash’ that sometimes comes from men when their existing male privilege or status is challenged.

Violence against women is preventable, but such a significant social problem needs a large scale response, and we must all work together to achieve the social transformation required.

To prevent violence against women we need to promote gender equality in public and private life, particularly through the following actions:

  • Challenge condoning of violence against women.
  • Promote women’s independence and decision-making in public life and relationships.
  • Challenge gender stereotypes and roles.
  • Strengthen positive, equal and respectful relationships between and among women and men, girls and boys.

Prevention efforts will be strengthened if these essential actions are supported by actions address the reinforcing factors, such as:

  • Challenging the normalisation of violence as an expression of masculinity or male dominance.
  • Preventing exposure to violence and supporting those affected to reduce its consequences.
  • Addressing social norms relating to alcohol particularly by challenging drinking cultures that emphasise male conquest and aggression or excuse men’s violence.
  • Reducing backlash by developing positive ways to engage men and boys in gender equality, building relationship skills and social connection and challenging restrictive and rigid gender roles and identities for both men and women.

What men can do to prevent violence against women and their children:

To prevent violence against women and their children, we have to challenge the beliefs and behaviours that excuse, justify or condone violence and inequality. 

While only a minority of men actually perpetrate violence against women, many men are often silent in the face of violence, sexual assault or attitudes which excuse or minimise violence and control in relationships.

It can be hard to challenge behaviours and attitudes that have an impact on violence, especially when you’re surrounded by mates or colleagues who don’t speak up, but it is important to take a stand.

What you can do

  • If you want to help end violence against women, start by looking at your own attitudes and behaviours towards women and men. Do you treat men and women differently? Do you expect them to act differently? Ask yourself why.
  • If a friend, colleague or family member is behaving in a controlling manner towards their partner - like telling them who they can and can’t spend time with, checking up on them excessively, or criticising how they dress - check in with their partner and see if they’re ok. Being jealous and controlling is not a sign of love or commitment, it's a sign of violence.
  • If someone makes a sexist joke or catcalls a woman on the street, say something. You’re probably not the only one who thinks it’s wrong. 
  • If you hear someone blaming a victim of sexual assault by asking: “What was she wearing?” or “Was she drunk?” tell them that those kinds of attitudes contribute to a society that excuses violence against women. The only person responsible for sexual violence is the perpetrator.