National Community Attitudes To Violence Against Women

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25th November 2009, 04:30pm - Views: 749

For more, please contact VicHealth Media Coordinator Antony Balmain.  T. 03 9667 1373   M. 0413 627 336


Wednesday 25 November 2009



A new survey released today finds that the vast majority (85%) of Australians reject the notion that

domestic violence should be treated as a private matter to be handled by the family.

A National

Survey on Community Attitudes To Violence against Women

was released by the

Commonwealth government today.

The research, undertaken by VicHealth for the Commonwealth government, delivers a national report

card on the status of community attitudes to violence against women.

However VicHealth CEO Todd Harper said the survey shows there is a lot of work to be done to ensure

community attitudes are respectful towards women.

“One quarter of people surveyed disagree

with the statement that ‘women rarely make false claims of

being raped,” Mr Harper said.

“And one in five people think that violence can be excused if the violent person later genuinely regrets

what they have done.” 

“Violence against women is no longer a private affair, to be swept under the carpet and managed in the

confines of the home.  We now know that the vast majority of Australians view violence against women as

abhorrent and an issue that must be addressed at all levels of society.”

“This report card is encouraging. There’s no doubt that community awareness and understanding about

the prevalence and serious nature of violence against women has improved since the mid 1990s.”

“The majority (98%) of people now recognise

that domestic violence is a crime.

Community attitudes

have also improved In relation to sexual assault with less than one in twenty holding the view that women

who are raped ask for it, compared to one in seven people surveyed back in 1995.”


according to Dr. Melanie Heenan

from VicHealth, who led the research, there remain some

alarming outcomes which require a response.

“The research indicates that in 2009 unacceptable proportions of the community are still prepared to

excuse and trivialise violence against women. 

“The survey also indicates that the community remains poorly informed about the barriers which prevent

women and children from escaping violent partners,” Dr Heenan said.

Report Co-author Dr. Michael Flood said: “Half of those surveyed believe that most women could leave

violent relationships if they really wanted to with eight out of ten finding it hard to understand why women

stay in violent relationships.”

Jane Ashton from the Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service said that: “people think that it’s easy for

women to leave violent situations however it’s not. Women often have no access to the resources

required to make a move, they live in fear for their lives and have often been so emotional and physically

eroded by the violence that they see no possible escape”.

For more, please contact VicHealth Media Coordinator Antony Balmain.  T. 03 9667 1373   M. 0413 627 336


The National Survey involved approximately 13,000 men and women from across Australia. It included

Indigenous Australians, people from culturally

diverse communities and a sample of sixteen and

seventeen year old respondents.  

“In relation to young people the survey indicates that they

are unclear about what actually


sexual and domestic violence and underestimate the seriousness of violence perpetrated against women,

especially within relationships,” Dr Heenan said.

“Through earlier research conducted by VicHealth we know that violence occurring within relationships is

the most significant risk factor for the health of women aged 15-44 years. It is also a crime experienced by

one in three women and costs the Australian tax payer more than $13billion dollars per year,” Mr Harper


“Research undertaken by VicHealth also shows that it is possible to reduce the incidence of violence

against women with considerable savings in health and economic costs,” Mr Harper added.

Report Co-author Dr. Michael Flood who also led a recent review of Victorian school based respectful

relationships programs says “school, sport and workplace based initiatives are an integral component in

any overall strategy to prevent violence against women.”

“Strong leaders from across sectors are joining to take a stand on preventing violence against women,”

Mr Harper said.

“The number of women who experience physical and sexual violence each year would more than fill every

seat in the MCG and the Sydney Olympic Stadium. There is no option but to act to stop it from happening

in the first place,” he added.

The National Survey on Community Attitudes To Violence against Women project was led by VicHealth,

with the Australian Institute of Criminology and the Social Research Centre as key research partners.

The full report can be read by clicking here.

Key Spokespersons

Please contact VicHealth Media Coordinator Antony Balmain – 0413 627 336

Todd Harper,

CEO, VicHealth

Dr Melanie Heenan

Program Manager, Preventing Violence Against Women Program, VicHealth

Dr Michael Flood

Research Leader, Preventing Violence Against Women Program, VicHealth

Associate Professor Anita Harris

University of Queensland

Deb Bryant

Director, Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service

03 9928 9611

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