Preventing violence against women needs greater focus on perpetrators, Our Watch says

Violence against women is a problem of epidemic proportions in Australia, and one that is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men, Our Watch says.

CEO of Our Watch Patty Kinnersly says structural change is required to stop violence against women.

CEO of Our Watch Patty Kinnersly says structural change is required to stop violence against women. Source: AAP

This article contains reference to violence against women, including domestic, family and sexual violence. 

Preventing violence against women in Australia requires systemic changes and a greater focus on overwhelmingly male perpetrators, the nation's leading organisation for the prevention of violence against women and children says. 

In its updated guidelines, Our Watch calls for essential actions to address the gendered drivers of violence that go beyond individual behaviours, along with other forms of intersecting discrimination such as racism and colonialism. 

"Gendered violence is an abuse of our human rights; it remains a national emergency, and the women who have experienced violence have always been and will remain our daily motivation to drive change," Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly said during the launch of the second edition of Change the story on Wednesday. 

"It [the framework] has confirmed that we must stay the course and continue to promote gender equality everywhere we live, work and play." 

Violence against women is a problem of "epidemic proportions" in Australia, the framework says, and one that can take many forms, including intimate partner violence, sexual assault, workplace sexual harassment and street harassment. 

On average, one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner. Women are far more likely to experience intimate partner violence then men. One in two women have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime, while one in three have experienced physical violence since the age of 15. 

In 2012, 95 per cent of women who experienced violence did so at the hands of a male perpetrator. 

"Let’s be clear: violence against women is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men," said Emma Fulu, founder of The Equality Institute and adviser on the new framework. 

She said violence against women has for too long been seen as "a women's issue". 

"It has been framed as an issue for victims to to solve, and in many cases, for victims to prove their own victimisation, all the time against the backdrop of a culture of silencing, blaming, minimising and trivialising our experiences.

"This is not about blame, this is about meaningful change. We are never going to succeed in ending violence against women until we address the drivers of perpetration, not just the drivers of victimisation."

The updated framework includes an increased focus on men as perpetrators and highlights the connection between harmful forms of masculinity, gender inequality and violence against women. Engagement with men in prevention work is crucial, it says. 

"The research shows that some men's rigid attachment to the idea that they must be in control, tough, aggressive and suppress their emotions, is not only harmful to men but it is also harmful to women," Ms Kinnersly said. 

"We have a tremendous opportunity to ensure that all our prevention activities address these ideas about what it is to be a man and engage men and boys to not only call out disrespect towards women, but to act when women are underrepresented in the media, in the workplace and in leadership positions." 

The framework also highlights that other forms of discrimination must be addressed to prevent violence, such as racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and colonialism. 

It includes additional guidelines on addressing the disproportionate rates of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and calls for them to be treated as an "urgent national priority". 

Dr Fulu said while violence against women "touches all of us", some women face greater risks than others. 

"This new edition really shows us much more clearly how addressing all of those intersections is critical if we are going to prevent violence against all women," she said.  

Ms Kinnersly said these are aspects of the updated framework that build upon and strengthen Our Watch's first Change the story, released in 2015. 

She said the framework has been endorsed by all levels of governments under the current national plan to reduce violence against women and their children.

Our Watch is now working with the federal government to ensure the next national plan of action to end violence is underpinned by up-to-date evidence.

The federal government has announced it is setting up a domestic, family and sexual violence commission as part of its next plan. 

The announcement comes as Labor promised to set up a national commissioner to co-ordinate domestic and sexual violence prevention if it wins government at the next federal election.

Speaking during the framework launch on Wednesday, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said Change the story has shaped her own work in gender inequality. 

"I hope 2021 will be the watershed year, with Change the story mark two as the foundation of true gender equality to come." 

If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

The Men’s Referral Service provides advice for men on domestic violence and can be contacted on 1300 766 491. 


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Published 24 November 2021 at 6:05pm
By Emma Brancatisano
Source: SBS News