Men's violence against women is a violation of human rights and there is a need for serious action on this issue.
Community consultation on the Preventing violence against women strategy ran from August to September 2013. Community members were invited to watch the video, read the draft strategy and provide comments through an online feedback form.
The final strategy was unanimously adopted at the Future Melbourne Committee in November 2013.
Read the final strategy
Read the final strategy
Timeline item 1 - complete
Community engagement on draft Preventing violence against women strategy
14 August - 10 September 2013
Timeline item 2 - complete
Review feedback for draft Preventing violence against women strategy
September - October 2013
Timeline item 3 - complete
Preventing violence against women strategy endorsed by Council
- What is violence against women?
Violence against women is any public or private act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty (United Nations General Assembly, 1993)
There are various forms of violence against women, including:
- Physical abuse and aggression such as stalking, grabbing, slapping, hitting, kicking, choking and beating (or threats of these acts)
- Rape and other forms of sexual coercion, unwanted sexual advances or harassment, forced prostitution and sex trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation
- Threatening to hurt people and animals, threatening to hurt themselves as a means to control, blaming others for their behaviour
- Intimidation, derogatory name calling, cyber stalking, belittling, humiliation, and other forms of emotional and psychological abuse
- A range of controlling behaviours such as isolating women from their family and friends, monitoring their movements, or restricting their access to money and bank accounts, information, assistance and other resources
- Dowry-related violence, female genital mutilation, and other practices harmful to women (VicHealth, 2011)
- Threatening to ‘out’ people or to infect them with a sexually transmitted disease or other illness.
- Why is the City of Melbourne getting involved in preventing violence against women?
City of Melbourne is well placed to take an active role in preventing violence against women, given our role in creating safe public environments, developing community facilities and providing health and community services. As a large organisation and capital city, we also demonstrate leadership in resourcing and coordinating strategies with our partners across a spectrum of services and settings.
Violence against women was identified as a priority safety issue through our research and consultation with community for the development of the 2011-2013 Strategy for a Safer City and Pathways: Homeless Strategy 2011-2013.
- Why develop a strategy that focuses on women?
Violence against women in Australia is widespread:
- one in three women having experienced physical violence over the age of 15 (ABS, 2006)
- just over one in five women having experienced sexual violence over the age of 15 (AHRC, 2012)
- around 75 women die every year at the hand of a violent partner or former partner (ABS, 2011)
Violence against women is a prevalent problem with serious health, social and economic consequences. Women exposed to violence are placed at greater risk of developing a range of health problems including stress, anxiety, depression, pain syndromes, phobias and medical symptoms (WHO, 2000). Intimate partner violence contributes to more ill health and premature death for women aged 15 to 44 in Victoria than any other single factor, including high blood pressure, tobacco and obesity (VicHealth, 2004)
Violence against women has enormous direct and indirect costs for individuals, families, communities, employers and the public sector including health, police, legal and related as well as lost wages and productivity (Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, 2009 in VicHealth 2010). It was estimated in 2009 that violence against women costs the Australian economy $13.6 billion and in Victoria $3.4 billion. If appropriate action is not taken to prevent violence, the sum will increase to $15.6 billion per year by 2021 with Victoria’s share of the cost reaching approximately $3.9 billion. However, it was also found that if every violent event experienced by a woman could be prevented, this would save over $20,000 in costs per incident (National Council 2009a in VicHealth 2010; Victorian Government 2012).
Violence against women is a crime predominately perpetrated by men known to them. According to the Personal Safety Survey (Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2006), most women assaulted in the last 12 months were assaulted by either a current or previous partner (31%), a male family member or friend (28%) or another male person (12%).
While women represent the overwhelming majority of victims of violence occurring in the home, men are sometimes victims too. The experiences of violence, however, are far from symmetrical. There are very few indications that women subject their male partners to the same level of severe, continuing and escalating violence as that which men perpetrate against their female partners (WHO 2002).
Men’s violence against women affects women across all sectors of society. It is widespread, systematic and culturally entrenched occurring in private and in public: in homes and in the workplace, in schools, clubs and pubs, in prisons, detention centers and in hospitals (Amnesty International, 2008). Whilst violence occurs in a variety of settings, it most commonly occurs in the home, with 75% of all assaults against women from the age of 15 occurring in the home (ABS, 2006)
Violence against women stems from social and cultural foundations. Physical and sexual violence against women in relationships, families, and elsewhere is shaped by a number of underlying factors including social norms, gender roles and relations, and gendered power inequalities. (VicHealth 2010)
Key international frameworks, such as those developed by the World Health Organisation (2002) and VicHealth (2007) identify the key determinants of violence against women as including the following factors:
- unequal power between women and men
- rigid adherence to gender roles, and
- broader cultures of violence.
- What is primary prevention and early intervention?
Primary prevention is preventing violence before it occurs
Primary prevention strategies seek to prevent violence before it occurs. Interventions can be delivered to the whole population (universal) or to particular groups that are at higher risk of using or experiencing violence in the future (targeted or selective). Some primary prevention strategies focus on changing behaviour and/or building the knowledge and skills of individuals. However, the structural, cultural and societal contexts in which violence occurs are also very important targets for primary prevention. Strategies that do not have a particular focus on violence against women but address its underlying causes (such as gender inequality and poverty) are also primary prevention strategies.
Early intervention strategies is taking action on the early signs of violence
Early intervention is targeted at individuals and groups who exhibit early signs of perpetrating violent behaviour or of being subject to violence. Early intervention strategies can be aimed at changing behaviours or increasing the skills of individuals and groups. Violence against women takes many forms. It often begins with subtly controlling behaviours and escalates into a pattern of coercion and physical violence. At the individual level early intervention can seek to address controlling behaviours before they become established patterns. Early intervention strategies can also be targeted at environments in which there are strong signs that violence may occur (for example, peer groups or sporting clubs in which there is a strong culture of disrespect for women).
- Why focus on primary prevention and early intervention?
Currently, the City of Melbourne provides family violence related support and services that are focused on the intervention and early intervention end of the prevention spectrum. We offer support to families (in particular women and children) through our family services, maternal and child health services, parenting services, family support and counselling services. The City of Melbourne supports agencies and organisations to implement family violence and women’s safety related programs within our municipality through our Community Grants Program.
The City of Melbourne recognises that as a local government and a capital city council we will have a greater and longer lasting impact on addressing violence against women by focusing our new efforts on primary prevention strategies and addressing the underlying determinants of violence against women including promoting equal and respectful relationships between men and women, changing social and cultural norms and improving access to resources and systems of support.
- What is the relationship between gender equity and preventing violence against women?
The relationship between gender and violence is complex. Evidence suggests that gender inequalities increase the risk of violence by men against women and inhibit the ability of those affected to seek protection.
International research consistently emphasises the connection between the perpetration of violence against women and:
- the way gender roles, identities and relationships are constructed and defined within societies, communities and organisations and by individual women and men, and
- the unequal distribution of power and material resources between women and men.
Preventing violence against women before it occurs requires action to address the social conditions that can lead to violence. Research shows that key prevention actions include the promotion of gender equality and the development of respectful attitudes within organisations and communities (VicHealth, 2007)
- How have the community been involved in the development of the Strategy?
An extensive community engagement and communication plan was put in place to inform the development of the strategy. Thus far, consultation and engagement has included:
- Advice and input from experts in the preventing violence against women field
- Development and promotion of a discussion paper and video titled ‘We need to talk’ and social media campaign which was released on 23 November 2012
- An on-line survey (3 December – 21 December 2012) involving 77 respondents from across Victoria
- A community workshop (6 December 2012) with 6 participants including representation from business, welfare and community sector
- A stakeholder workshop (14 December 2012) with 65 participants including representation from over 34 agencies and various branches across Council
- A further stakeholder workshop to refine actions and scope flagship projects (17 January 2013) involving 20 participants with representation from over 12 different agencies and various branches across Council
- Formal written submissions and comments on the preliminary draft strategy from City of Melbourne branches, Travellers Aid Australia, White Ribbon Foundation, VicHealth, Municipal Association of Victoria, Not to Violence and Men’s Referral Service, Doutta Galla Community Health and Women’s Health Victoria, and Inner West Primary Care Partnership.
- What can I do to help address violence against women?
Everyone can play a role in preventing violence against women:
- Start the conversation with family, friends and work colleagues
- Become an active bystander(External link)
- Report incidents of violence against women to police ( 000) or Crime Stoppers (ph 1800 333 000) or on line www.saysomething.org.au(External link)
- Join the White Ribbon campaign http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/(External link)
- Become an advocate for gender equality and or preventing violence against women
- Participate in City of Melbourne preventing violence against women related events
- Where can I go for assistance?
If you are experiencing violence or know of someone who is experiencing violence there are a range of agencies and support services available to assist you. For a list of Victorian services click on the following link http://www.dvrcv.org.au/support-services/victorian-services/