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Preventing gender-based violence

3 minutes

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 violence against women and young women as well as violence against adult women. It includes a wide range of behaviours includes dating violence, physical and sexual violence, image-based abuse and sexual harassment. Gender-based violence is also inclusive of and extends to violence experienced by the lesbian, bisexual, gay, trans, queer and intersex people.

Violence against women is the most common form of gender-based violence in Australia and is typically perpetrated by a current intimate or former 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 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.

Condoning of violence against women

Comments, questions and jokes that excuse, make light of or justify violence against girls and women allow people to think violence is acceptable or excusable.

How might this look in school?

  • Parents minimalise 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 to share sexts that have been sent 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 answer at his mum for staying with his dad.


Men’s control of decision making and limits to women’s independence

When men control decisions and resources, in the home or in public, they have an opportunity to abuse their power, while women have less power to stop it, call it out, or leave.

How might this look in school?

  • The assumptions that male principals and teachers are ‘stronger’ or ‘firmer’ than female teachers therefore a preference for male teachers and executive staff is created.
  • 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’.

Rigid gender roles and stereotypes about masculinity and femininity

Gender stereotypes are oversimplified ideas, messages and images about differences between males and females that can be limiting, harmful and create unequal access to opportunities.

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.

Men disrespecting women to bond with other men

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 for 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.

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.

What's next?

The evidence for respectful relationships education

See more tools and resources to support respectful relationships education in primary and secondary schools

Tools and resources
Teenage students sitting on and around a table in a classroom, talking. They are all facing one girl with a pony tail, who is speaking.