As former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty said, ‘the media is uniquely placed to stop violence before it starts’.
What drives violence against women?
Evidence shows that violence against women is much more likely to occur when power, opportunities and resources are not shared equally between men and women in society, and when women are not valued and respected as much as men.
Research tells us that there are four key drivers of violence against women.
Driver 1: Condoning of violence against women
Attitudes, words and actions that trivialise, make light of or justify violence against women allow people to think violence is acceptable or excusable.
Driver 2: Men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence in public and private life
Women continue to earn less than men in the media industry. Women are also less likely to be used as authoritative sources or experts, and to hold producer or editorial roles in Australian media. At a societal level, women continue to be under-represented in political and workplace leadership roles and perform the majority of domestic labour.
When men control decisions and resources, in the home or in public, they have an opportunity to use that power to reinforce privilege, and to abuse their power, while women have less power to stop it, call it out, or leave.
Driver 3: Rigid gender stereotyping and dominant forms of masculinity
Common ideas of how men and women ‘should’ act influence the types of roles they are expected to fulfil Gender norms can be particularly harmful for women, as traditional female roles are commonly less valued.
When male power is the norm, and stereotypes of masculinity involve an assumption that men should be in control and dominant, then men are more likely to use violence, including harassment and verbal abuse, to ‘punish’ women who step outside of their expected roles.
Driver 4: Male peer relations and cultures of masculinity that emphasise aggression, dominance and control
For some men, making jokes and comments that reinforce the idea that women should be less powerful than them is a way of bonding and gaining the approval and respect of their peers. When aggression and disrespect towards women are seen as part of being ‘one of the boys’, it is more likely that violence towards women will be excused.
When the media amplifies, reinforces and normalises these ideas about masculinity and male peer relationships, it promotes and reinforces the kinds of social norms, community attitudes and individual beliefs that drive violence against women.
Find out more
To learn more about the gendered drivers of violence, read Change the story or watch the video below.
Changing the picture contains a set of clear actions that are needed to address the many drivers of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
Screen that is bright green showing title ‘Change the story, a shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women in Australia (second edition)’ in large black letters. An Our Watch logo is in a wedge shape on the bottom right of the screen. The video is in screen Auslan interpreted in the bottom right of screen.
[Dr Emma Partridge, Manager of Policy and Evidence Our Watch.]
Preventing violence against women is a long-term goal. It's social change, it's cultural change, and it's really generational and transformational change that we need, so it isn't going to happen overnight.
To make that change, we need governments to fulfil their human rights obligations to women. We need them to fund and support prevention. We need them to do the policy and structural change. But we also need everybody else to play a part. Workplaces, individuals, communities, families and sporting organisations. Everybody needs to work together and Change the story gives them the framework to do that, to bring together that long-term change that is so necessary.
[Dr Michael Flood, Associate Professor, Queensland University of Technology. ]
Change the story is based on a rich body of evidence from 40 or 50 years of scholarship on domestic and sexual violence.
And what Change the story does is synthesise that, it kind of tells a coherent, evidence-based story about what we know and Change the story has put on the map a language of what it means to prevent domestic and sexual violence, of the drivers of those forms of violence and the effective strategies we can use to prevent and reduce that violence.
[Dr Emma Partridge]
What's encouraging is that we can now move the conversation on to how do we prevent that violence and what works in prevention and what kind of strategies can we put in place.
[Jen Hargrave, Senior Policy Officer, Women with Disabilities Victoria.]
In my work I use Change the story in three main ways.
The first way is to explain to people what drives violence against women and children.
The second way I use it is to say that it's a national priority.
And the third way I use it is to say that we all have a responsibility to do something about it.
[Bridget Eltham, Senior Policy Analyst, Family Safety Secretariat, Department of Communities, Tasmania Government.]
It's also really important as part of our messaging to the broader community because we really need that strong evidence base to help shift attitudes and behaviours in the community. So really, using that Change the story to think about those different settings and where we can best effect change in the Tasmanian community.
[Dr Michael Flood ]
I've Change the story in three ways.
First, I’ve used Change the story as a kind of manual for how to do primary prevention in talking to practitioners, in working with policy makers, and so on. Second, I've used it as a source of evidence a source of scholarship about what we know drives domestic and sexual violence and the strategies we know will help prevent it. And third, as an education tool. Here’s a handy framework that identifies what you can do.
[Shirleen Campbell, Co- Coordinator, Tangentyere Women’s Family Safety Group]
Here's a good explanation of what drives those forms of violence. Since we’ve started the Tangentyere Family Violence Prevention Program, we have been using the resources and the research from Our Watch to help us develop Mums Can, Dads Can and Girls Can, Boys Can, which is our primary prevention projects so that these projects are grounded in research.
[Dr Emma Partridge]
Well, the first edition is five years old now, and the second edition was a chance to update the evidence, review the evidence that's come out in that time and see what we can learn from that. So I'd point to two aspects that we've really expanded.
The first is a focus on men as the perpetrators of violence against women and the harmful forms of masculinity that are driving that violence, and underpinning that violence. And on the flipside of that, the need to really engage with men as part of the solution, to talk to men and boys about the harmful forms of masculinity and how they need to be a part of preventing violence against women.
The second aspect is how we've woven in an intersectional approach in a lot more detail. So, of course, we're still focused on the way in which gender inequality is the key driver of violence against women, but we've talked a lot more about racism and homophobia, and colonialism, and so on, and how they intersect to drive violence against women.[The words ‘racism, homophobia, colonialism and ableism’ appear on screen.]
Change the story has helped us explain to people about gender equality being the key drivers of violence against Aboriginal women. Basically, what we do is we talk about the colonisation. I mean, you know, people will say colonisation is scary stuff to talk about, but it's also educating ourselves and educating the, non-Aboriginal people as well because this is our women and our girls and our children that we have to start looking after and making sure that they're having that respectful relationship as well.
Change the story talks about how all our prevention efforts should be inclusive of women with disabilities. And it talks about how we should prioritise high-risk population groups.
We experience all the same types of violence as all women do, but we also experience additional forms of violence due to the disability discrimination we experience.
Join us in creating a future
where all women and children
can live free from violence.
[Dr Emma Partridge]
Together, we can change the story of violence against women in Australia.
[Dr Michael Flood ]
You can change the story too.
[Green background screen slides across and words ‘Change the story’ appear, with the Our Watch logo on the bottom right corner.]
What can the media do?
The media can change the widespread condoning of violence against women by reporting accurately, safely and respectfully on violence against women. Learn about reporting on violence against women.
The media industry can address gender inequality, challenge dominant gender stereotypes and work to end disrespect towards women, as a sector. Find out about how the media can promote gender equality through its work and as a workplace.