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Primary Prevention of Violence Against Women (PVAW)

What Is Violence Against Women?

Violence against women is a pervasive and serious human rights abuse that causes significant harm to individuals, families, communities and society.

These rates are much higher for women who face multiple and compounding forms of inequality.

What Drives Violence Against Women?

Our Watch defines gender inequality as:

The unequal distribution of power, resources, opportunity, and value afforded to men and women in a society due to prevailing gendered norms and structures.

Evidence shows that certain forms of gender inequality consistently predict higher rates of violence against women:

These expressions of gender inequality are referred to as the “gendered drivers” of violence. There are also “reinforcing factors” within the context of the gendered drivers that increase the frequency and severity of violence against women.

While gender inequality is a necessary condition for violence against women, it is not the only or necessarily the most prominent factor in every context. Violence against women is often experienced in combination with other influencing or intersecting forms of systemic discrimination and disadvantage.

For women who face multiple and compounding forms of inequality which can result in higher rates of violence, more severe and
compounding consequences and barriers to getting help, we also need to focus on drivers of intersecting inequalities. For example, we know violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is also driven by racialised power inequalities and the ongoing impacts of colonisation.

What is Primary Prevention?

Primary Prevention is Stopping Violence Against Women Before it has a Chance to Happen

Primary prevention is a whole of population approach that seeks to prevent violence before it occurs – through addressing the social norms, practices and structures (key drivers) that cultivate violence against women or create the context for violence against women to occur.

Addressing the drivers of violence, prevents it from happening down the track. This is different from responding to violence after it has occurred, intervening early with at risk cohorts to course-correct / change the trajectory, or providing long-term support.

It is acknowledged that to effectively reduce violence against women, work is required across the whole prevention spectrum.

Primary prevention, early intervention, response and post-crisis response must be connected to achieve any real change and see a long-term reduction in the prevalence of violence against women at a whole of population level.

Prevention spectrum for violence against women

Upstream approach

Primary Prevention

Preventing violence before it occurs.
Whole of population approaches that address the primary drivers of violence.

Early intervention

Taking action on the early signs of violence to reduce risk of violence reoccurring or escalating.

Downstream approach


Intervening after violence has occurred.
Supporting survivors/victims and hold perpetrators to account.

Early intervention

Taking action on the early signs of violence to reduce risk of violence reoccurring or escalating.

The work in primary prevention differs to that in early intervention, response or post-crisis response.  It requires different approaches and frameworks and practitioners with diverse and specialised skillsets.

Examples of primary prevention initiatives include:

How Do We Prevent Violence Against Women?

International evidence shows us that countries with higher levels of gender equality have lower rates of violence against women.

To prevent violence against women, we must undertake key, mutually reinforcing actions that address the drivers of violence, across priority settings, using proven and promising techniques and tailored to the context and needs of different groups, so that we can reach everyone.

What About Violence Against Men?

All forms of violence perpetrated towards humans is unacceptable and must be taken seriously. There are specific gendered patterns in offending, experience of violence and impact, that need to be considered:

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