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All violence is unacceptable, whether it occurs in the home or the workplace, and whether it is perpetrated by men or women. Research shows that violence against women is prevalent and driven by gender inequality.

Violence against women is prevalent but preventable. By understanding what drives violence against women and taking action to change the structures, norms and practices that allow it to occur, workplaces can help create an Australia free from violence.

Violence against women in Australia

Violence against women takes many forms: physical, sexual, psychological and financial.

  • On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.1
  • 1 in 3 women (30.5%) has experienced physical violence since the age of 15.2
  • 1 in 5 women (18%) has experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.3
  • 1 in 3 women (31.1%) has experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by a man they know.4
  • 1 in 4 women (23%) has experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former intimate partner since age 15.5
  • 1 in 4 Australian women (23%) has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15.6
  • 1 in 2 women (53%) has experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime.7

If you, a child, or another person is in immediate danger, call 000. For sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service call 1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732 for 24/7 phone and online services.

What drives violence against women and sexual harassment?

An iceberg showing violence against women above water – 'murder, rape and sexual assault', physical and emotional abuse, sexual harassment' and the drivers of violence against women below the surface (disrespect of women, sexist jokes, unequal pay, harmful gender stereotypes, sexist language'.
Gender inequality is what lies below the surface driving violence against women. Image adapted from Gippsland Women's Health.

The drivers of 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.

Violence against women has distinct gendered drivers. Evidence points to four factors that most consistently predict or ‘drive’ violence against women and explain its gendered patterns.

Driver 1: Condoning of violence against women

When societies, institutions or communities support or condone violence against women, levels of such violence are higher. Individual men who hold these beliefs are more likely to perpetrate violence against women. Condoning of violence against women occurs in many ways, through practices that justify, excuse or trivialise this violence or shift blame from the perpetrator to the victim.

Driver 2: Men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence in public and private life

Violence is more common in relationships in which men control decision-making and limit women’s autonomy, have a sense of ownership of or entitlement to women, and hold rigid ideas on acceptable female behaviour. Constraints on women’s independence and access to decision-making are also evident in the public sphere, where men have greater control over power and resources. This sends a message that women have lower social value and are less worthy of respect.

Driver 3: Rigid gender stereotyping and dominant forms of masculinity

Promoting and enforcing rigid and hierarchical gender stereotypes reproduces the social conditions of gender inequality that underpin violence against women. In particular, socially dominant stereotypes of masculinity play a direct role in driving men’s violence against women.

Driver 4: Male peer relations and cultures of masculinity that emphasise aggression, dominance and control

Male peer relationships (both personal and professional) that are characterised by attitudes, behaviours or norms regarding masculinity that centre on aggression, dominance, control or hypersexuality are associated with violence against women.


What's next?

Understand the power of workplaces to make positive change.