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The national campaign aims to help break the cycle of violence by encouraging adults to reflect on their attitudes, and have conversations about respect with young people.

The issue

On average, one woman is killed every week at the hands of a current or former partner. One in three women has been a victim of physical or sexual violence, since the age of 15, from someone known to them. One in four young people are prepared to excuse violence from a partner.

This is a cycle of violence, which starts with disrespect. It starts with the attitudes and behaviours that are dismissed by adults.
Children form their beliefs from the world around them – what they hear, see and talk about. Sometimes, without meaning to, we ignore disrespectful behaviour, or prefer not to get involved.

What we often don’t realise is that our language can carry hidden meanings. The excuses we make can allow disrespect to grow. Research shows we teach boys this behaviour towards girls is ‘just what boys do.’ We teach girls to accept it, and tell them ‘It’s ok, he probably did it because he likes you’.

We may not realise how much our words shape young people’s view of the world. As they grow, children learn to accept our excuses. Gradually, boys and girls start to believe that disrespect is just a normal part of growing up.

By making excuses, we pass on our beliefs about men and women to the next generation. We are unintentionally part of the problem. But we can all be part of the solution.

The campaign

The campaign is aimed at parents and family members of children aged 10–17, as well as the teachers, coaches, community leaders and employers of young people.

Advertising will air from Sunday 24 April on television, cinema, print, digital and outdoors (such as public transport). It will be supported with online tools and resources to help influencers of young people to reflect on their own attitudes, and talk about respect with the young people in their life.

This is a Council of Australian Governments initiative, jointly funded by the Australian, state and territory governments. Campaign activities run until 2018, and will build on efforts already underway by states and territories, as well as non-government organisations like Our Watch and White Ribbon.

Other government support

It’s widely recognised that to reduce violence against women, we need to operate on a number of levels, including primary prevention, early intervention, support services for victims and effective interventions for perpetrators.

This campaign takes a primary prevention approach and complements other important programs and initiatives.

All Australian Governments are working together as part of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022, to reduce domestic and family violence and sexual assault.

In September last year, the Commonwealth Government announced an additional $100 million for a Women’s Safety Package. This supports the work being undertaken as part of the National Plan.

It includes funding for developing innovative ways of using technology to keep women safe for example, GPS trackers for perpetrators, safe mobile phones, and safety devices for homes.

The package will also help current initiatives further enhance and extend their support services, including 1800RESPECT, Mensline and DV-Alert, as well as supporting local caseworkers in domestic violence hotspots to better co-ordinate community services. It includes education resources to teach young people about respectful relationships, which complements the national campaign.  And it also includes extending support services in remote Indigenous communities.

While better responses to violence against women are a must, it is essential we take a step back and stop the cycle of where it begins.

The statistics

The extent of violence

The 2012 ABS Personal Safety Survey found that, since the age of 15:

  • 1 in 3 women had experienced physical violence.
  • 1 in 4 women had experienced emotional abuse from a current or former partner.
  • 1 in 5 women had experienced sexual violence.
  • 1 in 6 women had experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner.
  • Women were most likely to experience physical and sexual violence in their home, at the hands of a current or former partner.

What adults think

Awareness and understanding of violence against women is high, and most adults agree it’s wrong. 1

We also agree violence against women isn’t just physical – it includes a range of behaviours designed to intimidate or control.
However, what we often don’t realise is that the cycle of violence can start with the beliefs and attitudes boys and girls develop from a young age.

Our excuses can allow disrespect to grow. Research shows that too often, we play down disrespectful behaviour, accept aggression as just being part of a boy, or blame girls.2

The latest National Community Attitudes Survey (2013) 3 found that:

  • 1 in 5 people think there are circumstances in which violence can be excused.
  • More than 2 in 5 think rape results from men not being able to control their need for sex.
  • More than 3 in 5 see violence against women being primarily due to some men not being able to manage their anger.
  • Nearly 4 in 5 cannot understand why women stay in a violent relationship. More than half agree ‘women could leave a violent relationship if they really wanted to’.
  • Up to 28 per cent endorse attitudes supportive of male dominance of decision-making in relationships, a dynamic identified as a risk factor for partner violence.

What young people think

From an early age, boys and girls begin to believe there are reasons which make disrespectful or aggressive behaviour acceptable. Girls question whether it’s their fault, and boys tell each other it was a bit of joke. This can lead to attitudes like:

  • 1 in 4 young people don’t think it’s serious when guys insult or verbally harass girls in the street 4
  • 1 in 4 young people don’t think it’s serious if a guy, who’s normally gentle, sometimes slaps his girlfriend when he’s drunk and they’re arguing 5
  • Over 1 in 4 young men believe that girls like guys who are in charge of the relationship. 6
  • 1 in 5 young people believe there are times when women bear some responsibility for sexual assault 7

Since young people’s attitudes and behaviours are shaped by those around them, it’s important to expose them to positive influences where they live, work, learn and socialise. 8

Indigenous women

Indigenous women were five times more likely to have experienced physical violence in the previous 12 months than other Australian women and girls. 9

People from a CALD background

Though reported prevalence for women from a CALD background is the same as other women, incidences could be a lot higher. Cultural, religious and language factors, as well as a fear of deportation, are likely leading to non-disclosure.

Women with disability

  • 90 per cent of women with an intellectual disability have been subjected to sexual abuse. 10 11
  • Studies indicate that over two-thirds of women with disability (68 per cent) will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.12

The role of gender

The severity of physical injury and levels of coercion from all forms of violence in relationships is greater for women than men.13 The World Health Organisation states that violence against women is both a consequence and a cause of gender inequality.14

More information

Visit www.respect.gov.au for copies of the advertising materials, other background and resources.

Read more about research behind the campaign, key findings from the 2013 National Community Attitudes Survey and youth survey, and visit the Our Watch website for more research on young people’s views about relationships and gender equality.


  1. VicHealth 2014, Australians’ attitudes towards violence again women. Findings from the 2013 National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey (NCAS), Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Melbourne.
  2. Taylor Nelson Sofres, 2015, Violence against women and their children – formative research report, TNS, Sydney.
  3. ibid
  4. Hall and Partners | Open Mind 2015, The Line campaign – Summary of research findings, Hall & Partners | Open Mind, Sydney.
  5. ibid
  6. Youth Action NSW & White Ribbon Australia, Young people’s attitudes towards domestic and dating violence, Youth Action NSW & White Ribbon Australia, North Sydney.
  7. VicHealth 2015, Young Australians’ attitudes towards violence against women, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Melbourne.
  8. ibid
  9. The Indigenous statistic refers to a comparison between the Personal Safety Survey (2012) and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (2008). PSS: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012, Personal Safety, cat. no. 4906.0, www.abs.gov.au/aussstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4906.0/. NATSISS: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, cat. No. 4714.0, www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/mf/4714.0
  10. Australian Law Reform Commission 2010, Family Violence – A National Legal Response, NSW Law Reform Commission, Sydney
  11. Salthouse,S & Frohmader, C 2004, ‘‘Double the Odds’ – Domestic Violence and Women with Disabilities’, ‘Home Truths’ Conference, Southgate, Melbourne.
  12. ibid
  13. Braaf, R & Barrett Meyering, I 2013, The Gender Debate in Domestic Violence: The Role of Data, Australian Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse, Sydney.
  14. World Health Organization 2005, WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence against women, World Health Organization, Geneva.