Violence Against Women
Violence against women refers to all forms of violence that are perpetrated against women, including intimate partner violence, sexual violence and workplace sexual harassment.2
Violence against women can be described in many different ways, and laws in each state and territory have their own definitions. The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) identified the following definition:
"The term violence against women means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life".
Domestic violence refers to acts of violence that occur between people who have, or have had, an intimate relationship. While there is no single definition, the central element of domestic violence is an ongoing pattern of behaviour aimed at controlling a partner through fear, for example by using behaviour which is violent and threatening.
In most cases, the violent behaviour is part of a range of tactics to exercise power and control over women and their children, and can be both criminal and non-criminal.
Domestic violence includes physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse:
- Physical violence can include slaps, shoves, hits, punches, pushes, being thrown down stairs or across the room, kicking, twisting of arms, choking, and being burnt or stabbed.
- Sexual assault or sexual violence can include rape, sexual assault with implements, being forced to watch or engage in pornography, enforced prostitution, and being made to have sex with friends of the perpetrator.
- Psychological and emotional abuse can include a range of controlling behaviours such as control of finances, isolation from family and friends, continual humiliation, threats against children or being threatened with injury or death.
Family violence is a broader term that refers to violence between family members, as well as violence between intimate partners. It involves the same sorts of behaviours as described for domestic violence.
As with domestic violence, the National Plan recognises that although only some aspects of family violence are criminal offences, any behaviour that causes the victim to live in fear is unacceptable.
The term, 'family violence' is the most widely used term to identify the experiences of Indigenous people, because it includes the broad range of marital and kinship relationships in which violence may occur4.
2 VicHealth 2012, Preventing violence against women in the workplace (An evidence review: summary report), Victorian Health Promotion Foundation. 3 Council of Australian Governments 2011, National plan to reduce violence against women and their children 2010-2022, Australian Government Department of Social Services 4 VicHealth 2008, Violence against women in Australia, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation