Australian attitudes to violence against women remain a serious issue and are indicative of institutionalised sexism, a report has found.
The VicHealth report co-authored by RMIT University’s Dr Anastasia Powell found an alarming number of Australians were ready to excuse rapists and men who controlled, intimidated, bashed and killed women, with many assigning blame to the victim.
One in five Australians agreed that a woman was partly responsible for rape if she is intoxicated, while one in six supported the deplorable notion that women said “no” when they meant “yes”.
The findings are contained in VicHealth’s national survey of 17,500 Australians about their views on violence against women and gender equality.
Dr Powell, a lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies and an associate of RMIT’s Centre for Applied Social Research (CASR),said the research was extremely important and that taking stock of societal attitudes was vital.
“Attitudes play a key role in shaping the way that individuals, organisations and communities respond when they see violence and disrespect towards women,” she said.
“In order to address and ultimately prevent violence against women in our community we also have to challenge the sexism, stereotypes and discrimination that women experience every day.
“To prevent violence we must work together to reject socialised inequality and build a culture of respect.”
The National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey (NCAS) has been undertaken periodically since 1995 to track whether views on violence and gender roles are shifting.
Most people surveyed understood that domestic violence was a crime and that women were far more likely to be victim, and almost all (98 per cent) people surveyed said they would intervene if a woman they knew was the target of violence.
Unfortunately, a high number of Australians still believed that violence and rape could be excused.
The report concluded that above all else, the main influence on people’s attitudes to violence against women was their understanding of the issue and how supportive they were of gender equality.
Thus, the more people subscribed to archaic and essentially harmful gender stereotypes, the more likely they were to excuse, trivialise or justify violent behaviour.
VicHealth CEO, Jerril Rechter, said she was concerned about the number of people – men and women – who still believed that rape and physical violence were justifiable, and that women were often partly to blame.
“A culture that excuses rape and violence is one that allows it to happen,” she said.
“VicHealth believes we need to focus our efforts on the younger generation to teach them how to nurture equal, caring, respectful partnerships throughout their lives.
“All women deserve to be respected as men’s equals and to be safe, but sadly this is not the case for so many in Australia right now.”
Commissioned by the Australian Government Department of Social Services in 2012 to undertake the survey, VicHealth led the project in collaboration with other research institutions as partners.