Community attitudes towards violence against women offer some hope among concerning findings

  • A concerning number (41%) of Australians believe that domestic violence is committed equally by both men and women, despite evidence definitively showing that men are the primary perpetrators of domestic violence
  • While the majority of Australians believe that violence against women is a problem across the country, less than half believe it is a problem in the suburb or town they live in
  • 34% of people believe that it is still common for sexual assault accusations to be used as a way of getting back at men
  • 35% of people believe that many women exaggerate how unequally women are treated in Australia

The results of a survey tracking community attitudes towards violence against women and gender inequality offers a tiny glimmer of hope among several concerning findings.

The National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey is conducted every four years. In 2021, it measured the attitudes of almost 20,000 people living in Australia.

Run by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), the 2021 survey shows that as a community, we are becoming more aware of what violence against women and gender inequality can look like, and we’re more likely to reject certain forms of violence.

“The gradual improvements we’ve seen in attitudes show that long-term culture change is possible, and we can all work together to prevent violence against women,” said Respect Victoria CEO Emily Maguire.

The findings show that community attitudes towards sexual violence have improved compared to previous surveys in 2013 and 2017, which in part could be attributed to the work of people like Brittany Higgins, Grace Tame and Chantel Contos, as well as public movements like #MeToo.

However, attitudes towards domestic violence have plateaued.

“The survey tells us that many people are still holding onto attitudes that create a culture where violence against women happens,” said Ms Maguire.

“While they were in the minority, too many Australians still believe that there are excuses for violence, that men can’t control themselves when it comes to sex, that women make up accusations of violence to get back at men, and that tracking your partner is okay,” said Ms Maguire.

The survey findings also exposed a gap in the national understanding of the gendered nature of family violence and violence against women.

“The evidence tells us that men are overwhelmingly the main perpetrators of violence, and we must get comfortable with naming that as a country so that we can work together to understand and prevent it from happening,” said Ms Maguire.

A disconnect is also present when it comes to where violence is happening in our communities.

“Violence against women is happening in our own backyards, in every suburb and town in the country. It can be hard to recognise, but just because you haven’t experienced or heard about it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening,” said Ms Maguire.

“We all have an opportunity to be a part of the solution, and these findings should and must galvanise us towards change,” said Ms Maguire. “We’re better than this, and it’s time to prove it.”

Read the full 2023 National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey.