Violence against women must be prevented

News, Prevention & Strengthening | Posted March 8, 2022
Violence against women must be prevented

Jonathan Finch, Acting Executive Director Services & Practice, OzChild

Violence against women remains devastatingly pervasive and starts alarmingly young.

In March 2021 the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report that represents the largest study ever conducted on the prevalence of violence against women. The report found 1 in 3 women globally experience violence, sadly a number that has remained largely unchanged over the past decade. 

I revisited this report today, on International Women’s Day, finding myself drawn to a quote by
Dr Claudia Garcia-Moreno of WHO.

“To address violence against women, there’s an urgent need to reduce stigma around this issue, train health professionals to interview survivors with compassion, and dismantle the foundations of gender inequality.

“Interventions with adolescents and young people to foster gender equality and gender-equitable attitudes are also vital.”

This really resonated with me, and I found myself wondering why governments are not investing more in supporting families where there are adolescents who are violent in the home?

Those experiencing violence from young people are mostly mothers and younger siblings and children who grow up in families where there is violence may suffer a range of behavioural and emotional disturbances as a result of this violence. 

WHO tells us that preventing violence requires addressing systemic economic and social inequalities, ensuring access to education and safe work, and changing discriminatory gender norms and institutions.

Successful interventions also include strategies that ensure essential services are available and accessible to survivors such as interventions like Functional Family Therapy (FFT) that support the whole family in circumstances where adolescents use violence with a focus on disrupting the cycles of violence.

For three years our dedicated team on the New South Wales Central Coast have been piloting an approach to working with families who have a young person who is violent in the home using FFT.

The families we have worked with, give us great insight into what FFT looks like in practice, what we have learnt about the complexity of working with adolescent violence in the home and how we’ve adjusted and built our implementation over time.

Using action research, with systematic feedback, we have strengthened our practice. There is no doubt this evidence-based program plays a critical role in the fight to eliminate violence against women and children.

Investing in FFT won’t solve the family and domestic violence crisis alone, but it does help to disrupt the cycles of violence in families and stop harmful behaviours from escalating now and into adult relationships.

Missed opportunities to intervene early, and system barriers have only contributed to worsening cycles of violence. Investment by the NSW Government in this early intervention and prevention program is a must.

The NSW Government is working on its State Plan for Family and Domestic Violence alongside the development of the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children, no doubt children and young people will be a priority group, OzChild’s FFT program on the Central Coast specifically addresses a service gap that has emerged in national consultations and must be included in any plan to eliminate violence against women and children.

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