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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.

An iceberg showing violence against women above water – 'murder, rape and sexual assault', physical and emotional abuse, sexual harassment' and the drivers of violence against women below the surface (disrespect of women, sexist jokes, unequal pay, harmful gender stereotypes, sexist language'.
Gender inequality is what lies below the surface driving violence against women. Image adapted from Gippsland Women's Health.

The drivers of violence against women

Violence against women has distinct gendered drivers. Evidence points to four factors that most consistently predict or ‘drive’ violence against women and explain its gendered patterns.

Driver 1: Condoning of violence against women

When societies, institutions or communities support or condone violence against women, levels of such violence are higher. Individual men who hold these beliefs are more likely to perpetrate violence against women.

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

Violence is more common in relationships in which men control decision-making and limit women’s autonomy, have a sense of ownership of or entitlement to women, and hold rigid ideas on acceptable female behaviour.

Constraints on women’s independence and access to decision-making are also evident in the public sphere, where men have greater control over power and resources.

Driver 3: Rigid gender stereotyping and dominant forms of masculinity

Promoting and enforcing rigid and hierarchical gender stereotypes reproduces the social conditions of gender inequality that underpin violence against women. In particular, stereotypes of masculinity play a direct role in driving men’s violence against women.

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

Male peer relationships (both personal and professional) that are characterised by attitudes, behaviours or norms regarding masculinity that centre on aggression, dominance, control or hypersexuality are associated with violence against women.

Next step

The role of discrimination