Violence against women is a massive global problem – and it’s reached a crisis point in Australia.
An enormous amount of research has been carried out to determine how and why violence against women occurs, and how to end it. The good news is there are solutions, but the distracting myths surrounding violence against women stand in the way of these solutions.
When people think and say things like ‘That’s just the way men are’ or ‘She’s partly to blame’ they fail to see the facts about violence against women. When you have the wrong info, you can’t fix the problem. So, click on these myths to get the facts…
Plenty of men get angry, and some even find it hard to control that anger, but that doesn’t automatically lead men to be violent towards their partners.
Perpetrators of violence against women are very much in control of themselves – they choose to be violent as a way of exerting control over their partner – and they’re often in control enough to make sure they don’t get caught.
Even men who get into arguments at work, on the sports field or out with mates don’t immediately start punching everybody in the face, so why do we assume that it’s ‘just a control issue’ when they‘re violent towards women?
- Rape and sexual assault are acts of violence to assert power and control over people, not acts of sexual desire.
- Most men have sexual desires, but most of them have good, thoughtful and respectful relationships and attitudes towards women.
- Men are not controlled by sexual urges – even when they’re really turned on, most men do not rape women.
- Do we seriously think that guys are such cavemen that they have NO control over what their hands, bodies and penises do?
- Being drunk doesn't make men violent.
- Many acts of violence against women are committed by men who are sober and do not have alcohol problems.
- Research shows that while alcohol may increase how severe the violence is where it's already happening, alcohol alone isn't enough to cause violence in relationships. So while there might be a higher risk of violence when alcohol is involved, and often an increase in severity, it only tends to accentuate existing behaviour (e.g. violent behaviour).
- Many men who are violent were neither victims as children or witnessed violence between their parents or in their community.
- There is some increased risk of men who have grown up in violent environments choosing to use violence against women, but also, many men who grew up in violent homes are highly intolerant of violence.
- Many cases of family violence occur in upper and middle-class families, perpetrated by men with a range of education levels and across all socio-economic backgrounds.
- While there is some increased risk of violence in the most disadvantaged geographic areas, this is more likely about attitudes that support gender inequality and think violence against women is ‘normal’ or justifiable.
- 15 per cent of all women aged 18 years and over report that they have been sexually assaulted by a known person, while only 3.8 per cent of women report that they have been sexually assaulted by a stranger.
- Women are more likely to experience violence from men they know, often in the home.
- The ‘stranger danger’ myth is one of the reasons women are less likely to report a sexual assault perpetrated by someone they know. They may fear no one will believe them or that they encouraged the perpetrator in some way. Victims of assault are never responsible for the actions of the perpetrator.
- The vast majority of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Given for example that only 17 percent of women who experienced sexual assault by a male perpetrator (in their most recent incident of violence) reported it to the police (ABS 2012), the actual percentage of false cases is likely to be tiny. By one estimate, the actual percentage of false cases as a proportion of all rapes (reported and unreported) may be closer to 0.005 percent#1.
- Reporting domestic violence or sexual assault is not easy for victims. Complicated legal systems, reactions from friends and family members, and the disruption to a victim’s life can make it extremely hard or traumatic for victims to seek help.
#1: Flood, M. (2014). False allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence. http://www.xyonline.net/content/false-allegations-sexual-assault-and-domestic-violence - NB: This writeup was prepared for the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (Australia) in August 2013, to inform their reporting on the results of the 2013 National Community Attitudes Survey.
- The most extreme violence, including murder, often occurs when a woman tries to leave a relationship.
- Women often stay in violent relationships because there’s so much at stake – often things that are ‘shared’ with the perpetrator – whether it’s the children, friends and family, income, somewhere to live or the emotional history they have with the perpetrator and the hope that the person they love will change his behaviour.
- When we say that it’s up to women to leave violent relationships, blame is taken away from the perpetrator. This puts the responsibility for dealing with the violence on the victim, who might not be able to leave a relationship because she fears for her life or the safety of her children. We need to remember, the only person who is at fault in a violent relationship is the perpetrator.
- The overwhelming majority of family violence and sexual assault are perpetrated by men against women. When men are assaulted it’s much more common for it to be by another man and it mostly occurs as a one-off event, in public by a stranger, like a fight on the street or in a pub. Obviously this type of violence needs to be stopped too, but different strategies are needed for these problems. Working on stopping violence against women doesn’t mean Australian’s shouldn’t, or aren’t working to prevent violence against men as well.
- Violence against women typically occurs over a longer period of time, rather than a single incident, and more often involves the complexities of other family members, children and social circles.
- While some men experience violence from their female partners and ex-partners, the impact on women is generally more severe. The overwhelming majority of people killed by intimate partners between 2008 and 2010 were women (73 per cent). Violence against women was the leading cause of ill-health and injury among women aged 15 to 44; but not men.
- Statistically, people with a mental illness are no more violent or dangerous than others in the general population
- People with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators
- Most men who are violent against women are not mentally ill#1.
 Mindframe, Facts and stats about mental illness, http://www.mindframe-media.info/for-media/reporting-mental-illness/facts-and-stats
So, there you have it – a bunch of myths and the facts to bust them. But now you know what isn’t true… what IS true? Well, research shows that there are three things that underpin and create a culture where violence against women can occur…
- Gender inequality – the fact that women and men do not have equal power or resources and that their voices, ideas and work are not valued in the same way.
- Rigid adherence to gender roles – for example, the idea that women and men should act in certain ways or are better at certain things based on their sex.
- Attitudes, norms, behaviours and practices that support violence – for example, the idea that violent acts are ok in certain circumstances, the idea that some violent acts are not serious and that violence is a normal way of resolving conflict.