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Preventing gender-based violence

3 minute read time

Gender-based violence in Australia is preventable. However, it is a national problem, and the drivers are deep in our culture and society.

Gender-based violence includes a wide range of behaviours, such as dating violence, physical and sexual violence, image-based abuse and sexual harassment. Gender-based violence includes violence against young and adult women, as well as violence experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people.

Violence against women is the most common form of gender-based violence in Australia and is typically perpetrated by a current or former intimate, male partner. The evidence shows that violence against women is much more likely to occur when power, opportunities and resources are not shared equally between men and women in society and when women are not valued and respected as much as men.

What drives gender-based violence?

Evidence shows that violence against women is much more likely to occur when power, opportunities and resources are not shared equally between men and women in society, and when women are not valued and respected as much as men.

Research tells us that there are four key drivers of violence against women. 

These four drivers impact our experiences, as well as influence the cultures of our organisations, our institutions and our community more broadly. This is true for all schools, which are both education institutions and workplaces.

Driver 1: Condoning of violence against women

How might this look in school?

  • Parents minimise the aggressive behaviour of boys to girls stating, ‘It’s just boys being boys’.
  • A classroom conversation on sexting focuses primarily on why girls shouldn’t take/send sexts of how they can ‘safe sext’ rather than focusing on why it’s not okay for boys to share sexts that have been sent to them privately.
  • When a student discloses to a teacher that his dad is violent to his mum, his teacher asks lots of questions about why his mum doesn’t just leave, and whether the student is angry at his mum for staying with his dad.

Driver 2: Men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence in public and private life

How might this look in school?

  • The assumptions that male principals and teachers are ‘stronger’ or ‘firmer’ than female teachers or have better leadership skills, which creates an implicit preference for male teachers and executive staff.
  • Schools creating activities or developing curriculum that ‘engages boys’ in their learning, without the same consideration for what ‘engages girls’.
  • Women who don’t do paid work called ‘stay at home mums’.

Driver 3: Rigid gender stereotyping and dominant forms of masculinity

How might this look in school?

  • Primary school aged boys always being asked to carry the heavy sports equipment rather than the girls.
  • Gendered school uniforms including those that limit the activities that girls choose to participate in at school.
  • Gender imbalance in choices for extra curricula activities at school, particularly in team sports, for example, a boys’ football team and a girls’ netball team.

Driver 4: Male peer relations and cultures of masculinity that emphasise aggression, dominance and control

For some men, making jokes and comments that reinforce the idea that women should be valued less than them is a way of bonding and gaining the approval and respect of their peers, creating spaces for violence against girls and women to occur.

How might this look in school?

  • Male students being involved in a social media site that rates their female peers based on their looks.
  • Shifting the responsibility of the girls to accommodate the boys’ behaviour (compliant behaviour expected from girls). For example, boys won’t move to sit with the girls in the class activity so the girls are asked to move instead.
  • Teachers’ acceptance of aggressive and dominating behaviour from boys, or failure to challenge or create consequences for this behaviour.

What respectful relationships education can do for your school

Through age-appropriate curriculum, modelling respectful relationships and implementing a whole of school approach to this work, respectful relationships education can:

  • Strengthen your school’s commitment to gender equality.
  • Shift staff and student attitudes towards gender equality.
  • Challenge gender stereotyping among students.
  • Improve school policies and procedures to facilitate gender equitable workplaces.
  • Highlight and reduce barriers to promotion for women.