Primary prevention is a distinct approach – broader than, and different from, other work that responds to violence against women.
A comprehensive and holistic approach to violence against women must involve a continuum of interdependent and interlinked strategies, with efforts across the spectrum.
Tertiary prevention or response
Tertiary prevention or response:
- is actions taken after the violence has already occurred to avoid it happening again or to prevent the recurrence of violence. This may include supporting survivors and holding perpetrators to account.
- is essential, though unlikely to significantly reduce the rates of violence against women on its own.
Secondary prevention or early intervention
Secondary prevention or early intervention:
- is actions taken at the moments of risk to stop the violence or to reduce the severity.
- aims to change the trajectory for individuals at higher-than-average risk of perpetrating or experiencing violence.
- is essential, though it’s unlikely to significantly reduce the rates of violence against women on its own.
- stops violence before it starts by addressing its deep-seated drivers.
- is not about working with people at risk of either perpetrating or experiencing violence against women.
- works with all people, across all levels of society, making preventing violence everyone’s responsibility.We all have a role to play in changing the culture, structures and attitudes that drive violence against women.
- questions and challenges our beliefs and seeks to change the practices and behaviours of all of us.
- enhances early prevention and response activity by helping reduce recurrent perpetration of violence and shifting attitudes and practices in service and justice systems that may inadvertently tolerate, justify or excuse violence against women and their children.
A socio-ecological model for prevention
In the past, attempts to understand violence against women have focused on individual-level causes, such as the perpetrator’s mental health, life experiences (such as childhood exposure to violence), behaviour (such as alcohol use) or personal circumstances (such as unemployment).
While such factors may well be relevant, we need to explain why most men to whom they apply are not violent, and why other men not exposed to any of these factors are violent.
The notion of a ‘social ecology’ is a useful way of understanding individual behaviour in a social context.
Factors associated with higher levels of violence against women include the ideas, values or beliefs that are common or dominant in a society or community – called social or cultural norms. These norms are reflected in our institutional or community practices or behaviours, and are supported by social structures, both formal (such as legislation) and informal (such as hierarchies within a family or community).
This model views violence against women as the outcome of interactions among many factors at different levels:
- the individual and relationship level
- the organisational and community level
- the system and institutional level
- the societal level.
Learn more about how gender inequality is the social context for violence against women.
Introducing primary prevention
A tool to help beginners understand how to prevent violence against women
This eLearning module from GenVic aims to support new and/or inexperienced workers to learn more about playing a role in preventing violence against women.
A diagram showing the relationship between individuals and society
This graphic from Our Watch shows the structures, norms and practices found to increse the probablity of violence against women at different levels of the social ecology.
A webinar about what's changed in the new version of Change the story
A webinar hosted by Our Watch discussing what's changed in the new version of Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women in Australia.