One In Five Aussies Think Domestic Violence A 'Normal Reaction' To Stress

A new survey shows Australia has a long way to go in adjusting community attitudes towards sexual violence and inequality.

The National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey  asked over 17,500 Australians about their attitudes towards violence against women.

Produced by Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety (ANROWS), the survey is the longest-running report on how Australians understand sexual violence.

Source: Getty.

The survey -- based on statistics collected in 2017 -- shows that many Australians still hold disturbing attitudes towards domestic violence.

Around 20 percent of respondents said that "a lot of what is called domestic violence is really just a normal reaction to day-to-day stress and frustration".

Further, 21 percent said sometimes "a woman can make a man so angry that he hits her when he didn't mean to".

READ MORE: The Domestic Violence Signs That Are Still Overlooked

READ MORE: Domestic Violence Is a National Crisis Leaving Children Without a Voice

The responses to sexual violence also revealed statistics ANROWS called "concerning", with 15 percent of Australians believing rape is justified if a woman initiates sexual contact and then changes her mind.

Furthermore, 33 percent of Australians believe rape results from men not being able to control their need for sex.

Belief surrounding reports of sexual violence committed against women are also worrying -- with 42 percent of people reporting sexual assault accusations are commonly used as a way of getting back at men.

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There were also basic attitudes of sexism that ANROWS considers small acts of inequality in everyday life -- for example, one in five Australians wouldn't be bothered if their friend told a sexist joke about women.

Despite growing belief that women should have equality in the workplace, beliefs about domestic equality still lag behind -- with 16 percent of Australians believing men should take control in a relationship and be head of the household.

Further to this, one in four people believe women prefer men to be in charge of their relationships.

Renee Imbesi, a gender equality and prevention of violence against women expert from Vichealth, told 10 daily the jury is still out on how certain attitudes relate to the perpetration of violence against women.

"Attitudes can help us understand how police, lawyers, community services, school teachers, all of us really who hear something about violence respond to that," she said.

Understanding these statistics can also help to direct public campaigning and ensure that state governments are effectively sharing public messages.

Despite the concerning statistics, there were positive signs that Australia's attitudes towards domestic violence are improving.

The report stated most Australians "have accurate knowledge of violence against women and do not endorse this violence" and support of gender equality is still progressing.

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Imbesi said that the particular regions of concern that should now be targeted  are sexual consent amongst young people and beliefs about gender equality in the home.

However, Imbesi believes that comprehensive action need to be taken to change community attitudes and government campaigning alone won't shift them.

"Another thing we can do as a community is make sure we're having more open conversations in public arenas and the media about sexual consent," she said.

"Attitudes can't change by themselves and attitudes won't change with one single government strategy."