Preventing Violence before it occurs in Victoria

This is a paper produced by @vichealth and @ourwatch about tackling Family Domestic Violence in Victoria. My only concern is it was first published in 2007, and it is now 2015. Part 1#

Preventing violence before it occurs A framework and background paper to guide the primary prevention of violence against women in Victoria.

In 2004 the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation identified the prevention of violence against women as a priority for action. At that time we knew that violence against women was prevalent (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1996: 2003), was the most significant risk factor for the health of women aged 15–45 years (VicHealth 2004) and cost the Australian community $8.1 billion per annum (Access Economics 2004).

In light of past achievements in reducing factors which cause ill health, we also knew that the prevention of violence against women, while a daunting proposition, was within our reach.

This report, commissioned by the Victorian Government in 2006, was designed to review international evidence regarding the factors causing violence against women and models of good practice designed to prevent it. An associated aspect of the work was development of an evidence–based framework to support future efforts to prevent violence against women.

The project was supported by a large number of academics and practitioners with expertise in issues pertaining to violence against women and a shared commitment to changing environments, attitudes and behaviours which perpetuate this violence. As a consequence of work conducted through the project it has been confirmed that the prevention of violence against women is not an aspirational goal but, rather, is well within our reach.

We now know that practice in the prevention of violence against women has an evidence base, sound rationale for action and support for development by government, non-government, philanthropic and corporate sectors.

Through work being undertaken by a large number of people from across sectors, momentum in this area is being achieved. We have seen development of legislative, policy and program reform designed not only to improve our responses to those affected by violence but also to prevent its occurrence. We have also seen rapid growth in the number of cross-sector organisations who have integrated a focus on the prevention of violence against women into their core operations, thus creating the critical mass of activity which is fundamental to our success in this area.

Development of safe and supportive environments for all citizens is an integral aspect of a healthy, productive and just society. This report is submitted to the Victorian Government in the hope that it will provide a useful foundation with which to inform future planning to prevent violence against women.

It is also submitted as a seminal report that has the capacity to inform the activity of future governments, and the corporate and non-government sectors.

Men’s use of violence against women is a significant public health issue with serious social, economic and health consequences for women, their families and communities.

In Victoria significant advances have been made to improve assistance to women and children directly affected by this violence.

Communities and agencies across the state have continued their work of decades in providing accommodation, legal advice, information, material aid and social support. Public awareness campaigns have expanded and there is evidence that the great majority of Victorians – 98% of women and 93% of men – identify violence affecting women as a serious problem (VicHealth 2006).

In 2002 the Victorian Government developed its Women’s Safety Strategy, a five-year plan to guide coordinated action across government to reduce the level and fear of violence against women (OWP 2002).

In 2005 some $35.1 million was allocated as part of the government’s Fairer Victoria initiative to implement a plan to reform service system responses to family violence (DPC 2005, 2007; Statewide Steering Committee to Reduce Family Violence 2005).

Such efforts are critical to mitigate the effects of violence, such as depression and homelessness, and to prevent further harm and the escalation of abuse. While it is essential that this work continues there is also increasing awareness of the need for new efforts to prevent violence against women from occurring in the first place.

A commitment to strengthening efforts in prevention is reflected in both the Women’s Safety Strategy and, more recently, the Fairer Victoria initiative (DPC 2005, 2007). While primary prevention of violence is an emerging area of practice worldwide, there is a growing consensus that it is possible to prevent violence against women before it occurs (WHO 2002).

There is also mounting agreement that this problem is too prevalent and its consequences for individuals and communities too great to limit efforts to responding after violence has occurred (WHO 2002). Rather, there is a need to develop a spectrum of prevention responses. This involves building on existing work with affected individuals and families to include strategies to support primary prevention (WHO 2002).

In 2003 the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) identified violence against women as a priority in its broader program of activity aimed at addressing the preventable causes of poor mental health given the strong evidential link between this form of violence and anxiety, depression and other mental health problems (VicHealth 2004).

VicHealth has placed particular emphasis on strengthening primary prevention responses to this problem, working in partnership with others across a range of sectors and settings.

This has included a project with the Australian Football League (AFL) to engage both elite and community-based football communities in prevention; work with the Victorian research community to improve understanding of the causes and prevention of violence; and a program to support schools, local governments, businesses, and community and non-government organisations to implement primary prevention activity.

In partnership with the Domestic Violence and Incest Resource Centre, support is also being offered to build skills in the primary prevention of violence among personnel working with children and young people. Background In 2006 the Family Violence Interdepartmental Committee, in consultation with the Statewide Steering Committee to Reduce Family Violence, undertook to support the development of a whole-of-government plan to guide activity in the primary prevention of violence against women.

This undertaking was made recognising that while there was a growing momentum of support for primary prevention it was important this was consolidated and sustained through sound evidence-informed policy, coordinated action and appropriate resource allocation.

VicHealth supported the planning process in the first phase, documented in this paper, in the context of a partnership between it and the Victorian Government. It involved the development of a conceptual framework to guide action to prevent violence against women, based on a review of existing research evidence and input from a range of local and national experts.

The framework is designed to provide a sound theoretical and evidence base to develop a statewide, whole-of-government primary prevention plan. It identifies priority strategies, settings and population targets.

It is anticipated that the second phase will draw on the background material developed in this paper and engage a wide range of players from across government and the corporate, community and nongovernment sectors to develop a whole-of-government primary prevention plan for Victoria.

It is also hoped that this paper will be a useful resource for policy and program development personnel involved in planning primary prevention activities in a wider range of contexts.