Written by Petra Begnell1
We know the stats – violence against women is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s rights. It is the leading contributor to illness, disability and death among women aged 15-44 – their prime working years. We also know that men are the overwhelming perpetrators of violence against women (and indeed other men). What is not so well known is the impact on workplaces and the role workplaces can play in preventing violence against women before it occurs.
Workplaces are directly impacted by violence against women, costing Australian employers nearly $175 million annually. Nearly two thirds of Australian women who report violence by a current or previous partner are in paid employment. Whether the employee is a victim or perpetrator, a family member or a friend, acts of domestic violence affect workplaces’ productivity, employee health, and occupational health and safety.
Workplaces play a strong role in influencing the behaviour of individuals and groups, and so are an ideal place to raise awareness of an issue such as violence against women, and work to prevent it.
To do this, Women’s Health Victoria was funded by VicHealth to engage men to prevent violence against women using workplaces as the setting. The result is our whole-of-workplace program – Take A Stand against domestic violence – it’s everyone’s business. Take a Stand is a unique, Australian first, whole of business approach to preventing violence against women and supporting workplaces and their employees who might be experiencing it.
Preventing violence means targeting its causes. Research (VicHealth, 2007) has shown that men are more likely to perpetrate violence against women if they:
- Hold conservative or traditional attitudes about gender roles;
- Believe in male authority;
- Have ‘sexually hostile attitudes’ towards women; and/or
- Believe that violence is trivial or can be excused because women ‘ask for it’ or ‘deserve it’.
Therefore, strategies to prevent violence focus on promoting equal and respectful relationships between men and women.
Take A Stand uses the ‘bystander approach’, which encourages individuals (both men and women) to speak up when they hear or see ‘violence supportive’ attitudes or behaviours. It approaches each person not as a perpetrator or victim, but as someone who can make a difference – a partner in prevention.
Take A Stand sends a message that violence against women is everyone’s business and that everyone has a positive role to play in eliminating it. It provides employees with the skills to challenge ‘violence supportive’ attitudes and behaviours and creates new conversations around the issue.
The three elements of Take A Stand – lead, train, promote – approach workplaces as a community of individuals, providing a workplace with ways to prevent violence against women at all levels – from commitment of the CEO and board, to adoption of a violence prevention policy, to building skills of individual employees to Take A Stand.
Our goal is that workplaces that engage with Take A Stand will be safer, healthier, more respectful and more productive.
For more information, see the Take a Stand website.
1. Petra Begnall is the Program and Strategic Development Manager – Prevention of Violence against Women, at Women’s Health Victoria.
VicHealth (2007). Preventing violence before it occurs: A framework and background paper to guide the primary prevention of violence against women in Victoria. Melbourne.