ANROWS survey reveals 1 in 4 Australians’ shock belief about domestic violence

A quarter of Australians believe that a woman who does not leave an abusive partner is partly to blame if the violence continues, the latest National Community Attitudes Survey (NCAS) has revealed.

Released today by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety Limited (ANROWS), the 2021 NCAS of community attitudes towards violence against women surveyed 19,100 Australians.

Two in five people (41 per cent), according to the findings, mistakenly believe that domestic violence is committed equally by men and women – despite recent ABS Personal Safety Survey evidence, which revealed most victim-survivors named a male perpetrator.

It’s a significant increase from 23 per cent of respondents in 2009, and a statistic that CEO of ANROWS Padma Raman said is “extremely worrying”.

The NCAS also found that 34 per cent of respondents believed that it’s common for women to use sexual assault accusations as a way of “getting back at men”, and that 24 per cent believed that rape victims “had led the man on and later had regrets”.

“We still have a long way to go in correcting victim-blaming attitudes and rape myths,” Ms Raman said.

“Over the last decade we’ve seen an improvement in understanding of family and domestic violence, including recognising non-physical forms of violence, but it is extremely worrying that many Australians don’t understand that domestic violence is predominantly perpetrated by men against women.”

A “key piece” in ending violence against women and children, Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth, said, is “addressing the attitudes that can support it”.

“This includes attitudes that deny gender equality, that seek to limit women’s autonomy in relationships and that objectify women and disregard consent,” she added.

“Research like this helps us identify where there may be gaps in our understanding and where we need to focus our efforts on as a society when it comes to the important issues of family, domestic and sexual violence.”

The survey did find, however, a number of what Ms Raman called “really pleasing shifts” in Australia’s understanding of what constitutes domestic violence.

In 2013, only 53 per cent of respondents considered controlling a partner by denying them money a form of abuse – this rose to 81 per cent in 2021.

It also found significant improvements in our understanding and rejection of sexual violence, with 81 per cent of respondents disagreeing that women find it flattering to be persistently pursued, even if they’re not interested, up from 68 per cent in 2017.

Both Ms Raman and Minister Rishworth said the findings provide evidence that the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032 is moving in the right direction to eliminate violence in one generation.

“Along with states and territories, last year [with the release of the National Plan] we set a target to end violence against women and children in one generation,” Minister Rishworth said.

“By all pulling in the same direction we can achieve this, but governments can’t do it on their own. Ending violence against women and children is everybody’s responsibility and everybody’s business.”

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