What drives violence?

Violence against women is driven by a culture that allows it to happen.

Preventing men’s violence against women focuses on the culture that shapes individual behaviours that allow violence to occur. There are four factors that evidence has shown most consistently drive violence against women:

Condoning of violence against women. This can look like:

  • Telling sexist jokes or jokes about rape
  • Blaming a woman for not leaving a violent partner
  • The belief that domestic violence is a normal reaction to stress
  • Legal practices and media headlines highlighting what a victim of sexual assault was wearing or drinking.

Men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence in public and private life. This can look like:

  • The idea that men should be ‘in charge’ in their relationships and the bosses at work
  • Laws that limit reproductive rights
  • A lack of women in leadership positions
  • Female-dominated industries that are paid less.

Rigid gender stereotyping and dominant forms of masculinity. This can look like:

  • Men believing they are entitled to sex
  • The belief that women should be submissive to men
  • The idea that men must be tough and in charge, never cry or show their feelings
  • Phrases like “boys will be boys” and referring to girls as “bossy” when they express their opinion.

Male peer relations and cultures of masculinity that emphasise aggression, dominance and control. This can look like:

  • Men using sexist or homophobic jokes to bond
  • Boys and young men sharing sexual photos of women without their consent
  • A man wanting to appear in control of his partner in front of his friends
  • The belief that sexual harassment in male-dominated workplaces is to be expected.

While the drivers of men’s violence against women are well understood, we’re continuing to build knowledge of what drives other forms of family violence. Read more about Respect Victoria’s work to build this evidence on our Research and Policy page.

Changing the Landscape is a national resource to prevent violence against women and girls with disabilities. Read more on the Our Watch website.

Changing the Picture contains a set of actions needed to address the drivers of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Read more on the Our Watch website.

Pride in Prevention is an evidence-based guide for understanding LGBTIQ+ experiences of family violence. It links the drivers of violence against LGBTIQ+ people with the drivers of men’s violence against women. Read more on the Rainbow Health Australia website.

  1. These are the gendered drivers of violence against women as captured in Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women in Australia. Change the Story is an evidence-based framework developed by Our Watch. You can read more about it on the Our Watch website.
  2. Statistics source: National Community Attitudes Survey (2021). You can read the survey results on the ANROWS website.