A significant proportion of Australians still excuse, trivialise or justify violence against women, according to a new report released today by VicHealth.
A growing number of Australians think that a victim is at least partially to blame for incidents of domestic and sexual violence; almost half believe that rape results from men not being able to control their need for sex. And one in six think that women who say ‘no’ to sex, really mean ‘yes’.
These are some of the results from VicHealth’s National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women 2013 (NCAS) survey of 17,500 Australians.
Paul Linossier, Chief Executive Officer of Our Watch, a new initiative established to prevent violence against women and children, has welcomed this research but stressed that these attitudes need to change if Australia is to see a reduction in violence against women.
“All Australians need to speak out and take action to challenge attitudes and beliefs that work to condone violent behaviour. The prevalence of violence against women cannot be understated – one woman is killed almost every week in Australia by a current or former partner.”
The report clearly indicates that negative attitudes around gender equity need to be addressed to prevent violence against women, and as Mr Linossier explains, there is significant evidence that tailored interventions have a positive impact on these attitudes.
“Good practice violence prevention programs in schools have been shown not only to improve students’ skills in creating equal and respectful relationships, but also to reduce their future perpetration and experience of violence,” Mr Linossier said.
“The next step is to ‘scale up’ such programs, and find ways to make sure they reach not just some, but all people across Australia. This is the only way to move from small-scale program impacts to large-scale population change such as that measured in VicHealth’s attitudes survey.”
Australia has already lead the world in addressing other public health issues such as smoking and road safety, demonstrating that population change is possible.
Major reductions in avoidable death, injury and illness have been achieved by understanding and deliberately influencing the underlying causes of smoking or road trauma through legislative reform, law enforcement, social marketing campaigns and targeted education.
Mr Linossier said that Our Watch draws on similar strategies to prevent violence against women and their children, but that it may take many years before Australia sees shifts in attitudes and behaviours condoning this violence.
“Our Watch has begun working with media, community organisations, educators and policy makers to lead a movement to inform, inspire and mobilise Australians to recognise, reject and eliminate all forms of violence towards women and their children” Mr Linossier said.