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A team effort: preventing violence against women through sport

​Sport is an integral part of Australian culture and it is woven into the fabric of the everyday lives of many Australian individuals, families and communities.

Change the story: a shared national framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia identifies it as a key setting for the prevention of violence against women in Australia.

On and off the field, sport has great potential to influence social change and prevent violence against women by creating inclusive, equitable, healthy and safe environments for men and women, boys and girls.

A team effort: preventing violence against women through sport

A team effort: preventing violence against women through sport summarises and recognises the work sporting organisations undertake to prevent violence against women. It draws on stakeholder consultations and a review of international and national evidence about the important role that sports can play in preventing violence against women to outline ten key elements of promising practice in sport settings.  

What is the role for sport in preventing violence against women?

Sport has the capacity to influence, inform and shape attitudes and behaviours in both negative and positive ways. Sporting environments are places where violence against women can occur directly and, if allowed, can provide a setting for entrenched violence-supportive attitudes and behaviours to be played out. However, this doesn’t have to be the way. Sport can be a leader to empower, motivate and inspire change, on and off the field. Sport is a powerful environment to connect boys and girls, men and women with vital information, skills and strategies to push for inclusive, equitable, healthy and safe sporting spaces for everyone.

The challenge is to extend the notion of equality and fairness into the core business of sport by addressing the drivers of violence against women and stop it before it starts. With appropriate support, sporting organisations – whether at the national, state or local level – can be pivotal in tackling this significant issue and creating lasting change.  

The Evidence Guide highlights that if sport can continue to build the evidence by measuring what works, and improving our understanding of the key levers for change, we will be closer to ending violence against women. Sport settings need to be innovative, drawing from current successes, previous learnings and national momentum, to drive cultural change and gender equality.  

What are the 10 key elements of promising practice for sport to prevent violence against women?

The key elements identify the role that sport can play in preventing violence against women by promoting women's participation and opportunities, challenging gender stereotypes and roles, challenging violence-supportive attitudes and behaviours, and encouraging respectful, healthy and equal relationships on and off the field.

1. Address the gendered drivers of violence against women​​  ​
Prevention in sport must tackle all four drivers (below) of violence against women by engaging in essential actions that not only address attitudes, behaviours and practices but also work to change ingrained structures and norms. 
  • Condoning of violence against women
  • Men's control of decision-making and limits to women's independence
  • Stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity and disrespect towards women
  • Male peer relations that emphasise aggression.

2. Adopt a whole-of-sport approach.
For cultural change to be successful, sporting organisations should adopt a comprehensive and holistic approach that extends from their executive through the levels of leadership to players, staff, fans and supporters, sponsors and volunteers.

3. Ensure meaningful involvement of women and girls.
Sporting organisations must put in place measures for the meaningful inclusion of women and girls by addressing the structures, norms and practices that impact women in sport settings. Women need to be involved in the development, design and delivery of all aspects of work in sport settings that aims to prevent violence against women, and their diverse experiences must be considered.

4. Implement appropriate responses to incidents of disrespect and violence against women. 
Primary prevention of violence against women in sport settings should be underpinned by clear and consistently applied strategies for responding to incidents of disrespect and violence against women. This includes understanding how to appropriately respond to incidents of violence against women. 

5. Be values driven.
Effective prevention work can leverage and link to the existing values of the sport and the organisation to help drive positive cultural change towards gender equality.

6. Be underpinned by long-term planning, vision and resourcing.
For long lasting cultural change to occur, prevention work should be ongoing core business; not just a special project.

7. Be evidence led.
While primary prevention of violence against women through sport settings is relatively new, sports need to pay attention to the growing body of evidence and program evaluations in this area prior to developing their own strategies.

8. Integrate evaluation from the outset.
Sporting organisations should contribute to the body of evidence by integrating robust evaluation of their primary prevention strategies from the very beginning.

9. Consider context, difference and diversity in the sporting organisation and wider community.
A consideration of the diverse nature of identity, social positions and experiences in the broader community should be considered when developing primary prevention initiatives.

10. Work collaboratively to develop and share resources.
To support positive cultural change, sports should share resources, knowledge and experience through their pre-existing and new networks, both inside and out of their own sport.