The National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey involved 17,500 phone interviews with a cross section of Australians aged 16 years and older. The survey was developed by VicHealth in partnership with The University of Melbourne, the Social Research Centre and experts across Australia, and supported by the Australian Government Department of Social Services as part of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022.
The survey shows that most measures of community understanding and attitudes on violence against women have not improved in Australia in almost 20 years. In some areas, they have worsened. Two out of every five women experience some form of physical or sexual abuse. And nearly half have experienced sexual harassment since the age of 15.
Few Australians openly support violence against women but many subtly endorse it by trivialising and excusing acts of abuse. Three-quarters of Australians find it hard to understand why women stay in abusive relationships. And half of all Australians believe that women could leave if they really wanted to. One in five Australians believe violence can be excused if the offender later regrets it.
Despite community education and law reform in Australia to promote a model of consent based on mutual negotiation and respect, one out of every ten Australians agree that “if a woman does not physically resist – even if protesting verbally – then it isn’t really rape”. Twice as many people will excuse sexual assault if the woman is affected by alcohol or drugs at the time, More than one in three people believe that women make up false claims of rape. There is a significant increase in Australians who further excuse and explain rape by believing it results from men not being able to control their need for sex. While young people under the age of 25 are one of the groups least understanding of violence against women, attitudes of young men have significantly improved since the last survey in 2009.
There is greater recognition that women should be supported when escaping domestic abuse. A majority agree that men who are violent toward their families should be made to leave the family home instead of the woman and her children being forced to leave.
Finally, the report shows a concerning rise in the number of Australians who believe that both men and women are equally responsible for partner violence. In reality, ninety five per cent of all violence committed against both men and women iscommitted by men.