Intimate partner violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment and stalking are prevalent problems with serious consequences for women, their children and wider society (Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth), 2014; Webster, 2016). This violence affects women across the life cycle, but is more prevalent among, and has a particular and far-reaching impact upon, young women (Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2017a; Brown et al., 2009; Cox, 2015; Dillon, Hussain, & Loxton, 2015; Hooker, Theobald, Anderson, Billet, & Baron, 2017).

  • Young women in the 18-24 year age group are the most likely to have experienced violence in the 12 months prior to the 2016 Personal Safety Survey (PSS), which measures experiences of violence (ABS, 2017b).
  • The number of young women (18-24) who experienced sexual violence in the year previous to the 2013 PSS was twice the national average (Cox, 2015).
  • An estimated 38 percent of women aged 18-24 years experienced sexual harassment in the 12 months prior to the 2016 PSS, compared to 16 percent of men aged 18-24 and 15 percent of women aged 45-54 (ABS, 2017b).

Young women are also particularly affected by sexual harassment taking place on the streets and in other public places (Johnson & Bennett, 2015; Plan International Australia, 2018), through technology and social media (Henry, Powell, & Flynn, 2017), and in schools and universities (Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), 2017). In addition, young people may be exposed to domestic violence perpetrated against their mothers (Heinze, Stoddard, Aiyer, Eisman, & Zimmerman, 2017). Perpetration of violence is understood to be more likely when men are young (Fulu, Jewkes, Roselli, & Garcia-Moreno, 2013).

Many factors contribute to this violence and arise at the individual, relationship, community, organisational and societal levels. Gender inequality and the disrespect of women increase the likelihood of this violence occurring (Council of Australian Governments (COAG), 2011; Garcia-Moreno et al., 2015). There is evidence that violence against women can be prevented before it occurs by addressing the underlying factors that cause the problem. Prevention action complements, but is separate from, responses after violence has occurred. However, both forms of action are required to reduce the prevalence of violence over time.

Although as many questions as possible from the 2013 questionnaire were retained, a substantial redevelopment was undertaken for the 2017 NCAS, with key outcomes being:

  • the capacity to measure and understand the ways Australians think about violence against women and gender equality, recognising that attitudinal support for these concepts can take many different forms;
  • the use of composite measures (made up of groups of questions) to gauge understanding, attitudes and people’s intention to act as overall concepts;
  • new measures used to increase understanding of factors shaping knowledge, attitudes and intention to act, including measures of (a) the gender composition of a person’s social network, (b) prejudice on the basis of disability, sexuality, ethnicity, and Aboriginality, and (c) attitudes towards violence in general; and
  • better alignment with the National Plan (COAG, 2011) and Change the story (Our Watch et al., 2015).


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