Violence against women is preventable. Our goal is to stop violence against women before it starts. To do this, we need to understand the drivers of gendered violence and what we can do, as a society, to prevent it.
There is consensus in the international and national research that violence against women must be understood in the social context of gender inequality.
Gender inequality is where women and men do not have equal social status, power, resources or opportunities, and their voices, ideas and work are not valued equally by society.
Gender inequality provides the underlying conditions for violence against women. It exists at many levels in our society – from how we view men and women, to economic factors like the pay gap between men and women, to family and relationship roles and expectations.
The broad social context of gender inequality produces specific gendered drivers of violence against women. These include:
There are also reinforcing factors that can contribute to or exacerbate violence against women. These include:
The Our Watch intersectional understanding of violence against women acknowledges that while gender inequality is a necessary condition for violence against women, it is not the only or necessarily the most prominent factor in every context. Violence against women is often experienced in combination with other forms of structural inequality and discrimination. Examining how other forms of structural inequality and discrimination intersect with gender inequalities to exacerbate violence is necessary to effectively address the root causes of violence against all women, across the diversity of the Australian population.
Discrimination and inequality such as racism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia, and the ongoing impacts of colonisation must be addressed alongside gender inequality in order to prevent violence against all women in Australia. Key principles for taking an intersectional approach include:
An intersectional lens also means acknowledging that no single initiative will be equally relevant to all groups. This reinforces the need for multiple different, but mutually reinforcing, efforts that will build a national approach to the prevention of violence against all women.
Organisations that specialise in working with people affected by multiple kinds of discrimination and inequality have unique expertise and connection to communities, which is essential to preventing violence against women. This is critical to building a collective national approach.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience disproportionate rates of violence, and violence that is often more severe. Preventing this violence must be a national priority. It requires us to address the many complex drivers of this violence — not only gender inequality but also the ongoing impacts of colonisation and racism.
Violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is not an ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander problem’. Nor should Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people bear sole responsibility for addressing it. This violence is an Australian problem, and it is perpetrated by men of all cultural backgrounds.
All of us, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and non-Indigenous people, communities, organisations, and all levels of government have a responsibility to work together to prevent violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children.
For further background on the issue of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, please read the background paper here.
We know, from a large body of research, that there are clear drivers of violence against women. We know that by addressing these underlying drivers we can prevent this violence from happening in the first place.
Our Watch’s national framework, Change the story, outlines a primary prevention approach. Primary prevention requires changing the social conditions that drive and perpetuate violence against women.
Actions that will prevent violence against women:
Our Watch works to build a long term and sustainable prevention movement across Australia to stop violence before it starts.
We cannot create the social transformation needed to end violence against women alone. This is why we work with others to build this movement for change.
Our activities include:
It’s not a question of either/or. Australia needs to respond to and intervene in the current crisis, and work on longer term initiatives to prevent it into the future.
Well-resourced and effective systems and services for responding to and intervening in our current level of violence are crucial. They protect women and their children from further violence, and hold perpetrators accountable. Response systems also provide the foundation for primary prevention activity, by sending a message that violence is unacceptable.
As primary prevention activity increases, we are likely to see increased numbers of women being able to identify violence in their own lives, and seeking support. Having robust and adequately funded response systems (including support services, police and justice systems) will remain critical to ensure that women are safe and supported.
Our goal is the elimination of violence against women and their children in Australia.
To do this, we need to address the underlying drivers using strategies that have been shown to work. And we need to do this on a scale that will create change for the whole of Australia.
By increasing gender equality in our society, and by promoting equal and respectful relationships, we can shift the main drivers of violence against women. Over time, and with sustained investment in prevention, this should result in a decrease in the prevalence of this violence.
For more detail on the projected decrease in violence against women over time, please read our monitoring and evaluation framework, Counting on change.