Report Launch: The 2021 National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS) – ANROWS
The National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS) is a large-scale survey administered by ANROWS, that measures Australians’ understanding and attitudes regarding the complex issue of violence against women. Running every four years commencing in 2009, the survey provides us with a snapshot in time of how well Australia understands violence against women as an issue; how much people in Australia support gender equality; and how strongly we condone or reject violence against women.
OPEN attended the 2021 report launch, run by ANROWS on May 24 2023. The launch spoke to the significance of the data in the report as well as to the challenges that remain, such as the misconceptions and myths regarding violence against women and gender inequality prevalent around the country. Speakers highlighted positive changes but emphasised the considerable distance still ahead in altering community perspectives of violence against women. Details of the research findings are below.
The NCAS is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services (DSS) under the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–2032 (the National Plan 2022–2032).
- 19,100 Australians aged 16 years or over, interviewed via computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) in 2021. Random sampling was used to ensure a sample representative of the demographics of the Australian population.
- Translation and bilingual interviews provided for 10 community languages.
- Questions included demographics, understanding or attitudes regarding violence against women, attitudes towards gender inequality, and exploration of bystander responses when witnessing abuse or disrespect against women. Click here to access the instrument.
Findings from the survey indicate that while there have been gradual improvements in community understanding of gender inequality and sexual violence between 2017 and 2021, with an improved understanding of diverse forms of violence and a gradual rejection of problematic beliefs about gender, the survey revealed that attitudes rejecting domestic violence have stalled.
This suggests that there is still a long way to go in terms of changing attitudes towards violence against women;
- While attitudes towards sexual violence have improved, attitudes towards domestic violence have reached a plateau since 2017.
- There is a need for more work on issues such as coercive control, gender inequality, sexual harassment, and promoting respectful relationships.
- While progress is being made, a substantial proportion of Australians still hold problematic beliefs and attitudes about gender. This underscores the importance of continued efforts to educate and raise awareness to create a society free from violence against women and gender inequality.
Understanding of Violence against Women:
Over the last decade, Australians’ understanding of violence against women has improved. The understanding of diverse forms of violence has also increased. For example:
- In 2021, 84% of respondents recognized harassment via repeated emails or text messages as a form of violence against women, compared to 71% in 2013.
- In 2021, 81% of respondents considered controlling a partner by denying them money as a form of domestic violence, compared to 54% in 2013.
Attitudes towards Violence against Women:
Over the last decade, there has been a slow increase in Australians’ rejection of problematic beliefs and attitudes about violence against women. Attitudes towards domestic violence have plateaued since 2017, but attitudes towards sexual violence have shown improvement. For example:
- Domestic Violence: 15% of survey respondents agreed that domestic violence can be excused if the violent person genuinely regrets what they have done. This is similar to the percentage in 2017, which was a decline from 26% in 2013 and 29% in 2009.
- Sexual Violence: In 2021, 19% of people agreed that women find it flattering to be persistently pursued, even if they are not interested, compared to 32% in 2017.
Attitudes towards Gender Inequality:
Since 2013, Australians have increasingly rejected problematic beliefs and attitudes related to gender inequality. Australians are increasingly rejecting attitudes that support gender inequality. For example:
- In 2021, 85% of respondents disagreed that men make better political leaders than women, compared to 67% in 2013.
- In 2021, 87% of respondents rejected the idea that men should take control in relationships and be the head of the household, compared to 78% in 2013.
Support for the National Plan:
The NCAS findings support the Australian Government’s direction in the National Plan and ongoing work on issues such as coercive control, gender inequality, sexual harassment, and respectful relationships. The survey highlighted areas where more work is needed to address key issues, such as:
- Coercive control: 1 in 10 respondents agreed that it’s easy for a woman to leave an abusive relationship.
- Gender inequality: 1 in 3 respondents agreed that women exaggerate the unequal treatment of women in Australia.
- Sexual harassment: 1 in 10 respondents agreed with the statement that some men think they can touch women without permission due to women being ‘sexual’ in public.
- Respectful relationships: 1 in 10 respondents agreed that women often say “no” when they mean “yes.”
Understanding and attitudes towards violence against women and gender inequality are improving, but there is still a long way to go. Concerningly, many Australians still hold problematic beliefs and attitudes. For example:
- Even though 91% of respondents agreed that violence against women is a problem in Australia, only 47% agreed that it is a problem in their own suburb or town.
- 41% of respondents believed that domestic violence is equally committed by both men and women, contrary to the evidence that men are the main perpetrators of this violence.
The survey also found that too many people hold views that entrench inequality, and that there is widespread misunderstanding of the issue of domestic violence. Researchers and advocates have warned that further effort is necessary to address harmful myths and misconceptions about violence and victims and tackle “backlash” and resistance to gender equality.
What does this mean for the sector?
The findings of the 2021 NCAS demonstrate that positive changes to community understanding and attitudes regarding gender inequality and violence against women are slowly occurring, suggesting movement towards achieving the aspiration of an Australian community that is safe and free from violence. However, more effort is still required to intervene where harmful individual and social norms prevail.
It is still necessary to:
- Continue to challenge biases, myths, and misconceptions regarding violence against women and gender inequality held by individuals.
- Address broader practices, processes, systems, and structures across society that maintain gender and other inequalities and inequities, and this effort needs to be supported government, including through legal reform and response and recovery services for victims and survivors, such as health, legal and financial support services, and safe housing.
What does this mean for practitioners?
The NCAS is a useful tool for highlighting areas where further research, evaluation and monitoring could be beneficial. The findings point to many opportunities across the primary prevention, early intervention, response, and recovery and healing continuum that can potentially contribute to realising the aspiration of ending violence against women and building a culture that supports safety, respect and equality for all Australians.
- ANROWS Webinar: New survey questions and new evidence: What does the 2021 National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey tell us?
- The 202 NCAS Findings Report: Coumarelos, C., Weeks, N., Bernstein, S., Roberts, N., Honey, N., Minter, K., & Carlisle, E. (2023). Attitudes Matter: The 2021 National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS), Findings for Australia (Research report 02/2023). ANROWS.
- NCAS 21 Summary Report ANROWS: Coumarelos, C., Weeks, N., Bernstein, S., Roberts, N., Honey, N., Minter, K., & Carlisle, E. (2023). Attitudes matter: The 2021 National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS), Summary for Australia (Research report, 03/2023). ANROWS.
- The 2021 NCAS Technical Report: Coumarelos, C., Honey, N., Ward, A., Weeks, N., & Minter, K. (2023). Attitudes matter: The 2021 National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS), Technical report (Insights 02/2023). ANROWS. 2017 NCAS Qualitative research studies based on findings
- The National Plan: Council of Australian Governments. (2022). National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–2032. Commonwealth of Australia. https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/ default/files/documents/10_2022/national_plan_accessible_ version_for_website.pdf
- The Personal Safety Survey: Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2017). Personal Safety, Australia. ABS. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/crime-andjustice/personal-safety-australia/latest-release Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2023). Personal Safety, Australia. ABS. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/crime-and-justice/ personal-safety-australia/latest-release