The Basics

This page is designed to provide an overview of ‘The Basics’ of the primary prevention of violence against women (PVAW) for new PVT Implementation Committee members.

The Prevalence of Violence Against Women

Violence against women is now widely recognised as a global problem. It is one of the least visible but most common forms of violence, and one of the most insidious violations of human rights. It has serious impacts on the health and well-being of those affected, and exacts significant economic costs on communities and nations.

  •  In 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognised intimate partner violence  as a leading public health concern for countries around the world (WHO 2002).
  • In Victoria, male intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and illness for women aged 15 to 44 years (VicHealth 2004).

Primary Prevention

Violence against women is prevalent and serious; it is also preventable. A number of factors are known to contribute to violence against women and/or vulnerability to such violence. Seminal research from VicHealth demonstrates that the key determinants of violence against women are:

      •  the unequal distribution of power and resources between men and women;
      • an adherence to rigidly defined gender roles;
      • broader cultures of violence (VicHealth 2007).

Moreover, there is growing international consensus that the causes of violence against women can be modified, or eliminated altogether. This means there is considerable scope for communities and governments to prevent violence against women before it occurs.

Themes for Action

Just as the determinants of violence against women are now well established, expert research demonstrates that preventing violence against requires action across three key ‘Themes for Action’:

      • promoting equal and respectful relationships between men and women;
      • fostering non-violent social norms and reducing the effects of prior exposure to violence (especially on children);
      •  improving access to resources and systems of support (VicHealth 2007).

Each of the actions in Preventing Violence Together is based on one of these key areas.

Prevention Strategies

Initiatives to prevent violence against women must consider the need for:

  • universal strategies (that is, strategies for the whole community)
  • selected or targeted strategies to reach those who can be missed through universal efforts (such as CALD or Aboriginal communities) or to build the capacity of specific groups to take action (such as young people, men, women or carers of women with disabilities). (VicHealth 2007).

Ecological Model

The ecological model is derived from public health conceptual approaches to understanding violence against women.

The ecological model recognises that factors influencing violent behaviour or vulnerability to violence lie at multiple and interacting levels of influence – individual/relationship, community and organisational, and societal.

A Coordinated and Integrated Ecological Approach

To effectively address the key determinants and contributing factors of violence against women across all levels of causality, initiatives must also have:

  • mutually reinforcing strategies that address factors across the levels of the ecological model ( societal, community/organisational and individual/relationship);
  • effective coordination of strategies across governments and communities;
  • effective partnerships across sectors;
  • integration of strategies with relevant policies and programs that already exist;
  •  inclusive community engagement processes during planning;
  • sound implementation and evaluation (VicHealth 2007).

Settings for Action

Efforts to prevent violence against women are often located in everyday ‘settings’. The key settings as identified by VicHealth include:

  • education and training;
  • local government;
  • health and community services;
  • sports and recreation;
  • workplaces;
  • cultural institutions and networks;
  • faith communities;
  • other institutions (e.g. military);
  • arts, media and popular culture;
  • cyberspace and new technologies (VicHealth 2007; OWP 2009).

The primary settings for Preventing Violence Together are local government and health and community services. We also have reach into a range of other settings, inclu

Refer to Prevention of Violence Against Women Framework: A conceptual model.

On the importance of secondary and tertiary interventions

It is important to note that primary prevention strategies cannot replace secondary or tertiary interventions that provide services and support for women and children affected by violence (refer to Definitions).  The ongoing development of appropriate legal, policing and support systems must remain a priority.

All of the above information, unless otherwise cited, is sourced from the Victorian Health Foundation,
Preventing violence against women in Australia Research Summary: Addressing the social and economic determinants of mental and physical health 2011

Supplementary Orientation Materials

If you would like more information introducing you to the primary prevention of violence against women, an online training unit has been developed by VETO Violence USA that provides an induction to the Principles of Prevention for Intimate Partner Violence. This includes:

  • Understanding violence;
  • Social ecological model;
  • Public health approach.

Alternatively you may visit the Key Documents page to guide your orientation to the primary prevention of violence against women.

Let’s get started!

Now we are ready to work together to create ‘communities, cultures and organisations in the western region that are non-violent, non-discriminatory, gender equitable and promote respectful relationships’ (PVT Action Plan, Vision, 2010).

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