How young Australians conceptualise domestic violence and abuse
Talking about DV
As part of the National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS) research program, ANROWS researchers wanted to know more about how young people understand and conceptualise domestic violence, in their own terms.
About the research
The 2017 NCAS found that although young people have a good overall understanding of domestic violence, particularly its physical forms, there were also some “areas of concern” within young people’s understandings. The NCAS raised concerns about young people’s understandings of:
- the non-physical forms of domestic violence, such as financial and technology-facilitated abuse
- the high prevalence of violence against women in the community
- the gendered nature of domestic violence.
To further explore these findings, the report “It depends on what the definition of domestic violence is”: How young Australians conceptualise domestic violence and abuse unpacked how young people define and make sense of domestic violence. In particular, the study examined how young people distinguish domestic violence from other unhealthy relationship behaviours, how common they perceive domestic violence to be and their understanding of the gendered nature of domestic violence.
The mixed-method study involved a short online survey and focus groups with young women (41) and men (39) aged 16 to 18 from across Australia with a range of backgrounds. Fourteen online focus groups, each with four to six participants, were conducted. Seven of the focus groups were with young men and seven were with young women.
The research found the following:
- While media representations formed a key reference point for young people’s understandings of domestic violence, the young people knew there was more to the story than these extreme and sensationalised depictions of physical violence.
- The young people conceptualised domestic violence as having “explicit” forms of violence, such as physical violence, and also “subtle” forms, such as emotional abuse.
- The young people understood that domestic violence is a pattern of behaviour that can begin with toxic and unhealthy relationship behaviours that are controlling or manipulative, non-consensual and cause harm to the other person’s self-worth and mental health.
- The young people felt that the term “domestic violence and abuse” more accurately reflects the multiple and distinct forms of violence and abuse that can co-occur as a snowballing pattern of behaviour within intimate relationships.
- For the young people, the idea of consent went beyond sexual consent. Having independence, autonomy and the capacity to make one’s own decisions was seen as integral to a healthy relationship and most behaviours that encroach on a person’s freedom were seen as abusive and wrong.
- The young people rejected the idea that gender was a driver of domestic violence based on notions of “fairness” and treating all individuals the same. Nonetheless, they reflected on the way gendered “conditioning” by their parents, education and broader society shaped their own understandings and experiences.
This new research demonstrates that young people have a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of domestic violence and abuse, which should be used and built upon to inform relevant, consistent and effective education, policy and primary prevention initiatives aimed at preventing and reducing violence against women.
How young people think about …
Developing the videos began with an online workshop co-facilitated by ANROWS and Digital Storytellers. Ten young people from across Australia participated in the workshop and were asked to reflect on and talk about the main findings of the report.
The young people’s ideas and anecdotes were captured by both the facilitators and participants on a Miro board. The conversations were then developed into a collection of animated scenarios and the overarching narratives for three videos.
Workshop participants from R4Respect and the Queensland Family and Child Commission Youth Advisory Council were also involved in the filming of the videos in Brisbane.
Thank you to all the young people and youth advocates who helped bring the research to life: Lisa Lewis, Jean Lewis, Nagma Shaik, Josh Boardman, Kaitlyn Moore, Malika, Bri, Kirra Horley, Rachael Pascua and Andrew Taukolo.
Listen up! Hear from young people about their understandings of domestic violence
The report was launched at an online webinar facilitated by Body Safety Australia and featuring a panel of young people passionate about preventing violence against women. The webinar began with a presentation from the report’s lead author, Dr Erin Carlisle, which was followed by a discussion with the panel about the report’s findings and their ideas about how to talk about and prevent domestic violence and abuse. The webinar ended with an audience Q&A session. Throughout the webinar, Tatum Kenna from Digital Storytellers brought the conversations to life with her illustrations.
Highlights from the panellists
When young people hear “domestic violence” they focus solely on “violence”, which to them is just physical violence. By adding the word “abuse” at the end, it helps them to understand that there are non-physical factors in that same space. – Zac Tuialli, Men4Respect
A lot of the young people didn’t really understand that consent can be taken away at any time – and that you need consent for small things like holding hands, or kissing on the cheek. – Alesha Saeed, R4Respect
We appreciate when organisations meaningfully engage with young people and give us a platform to preserve, protect and promote our voices. – Jean Lewis, Wellbeing Health & Youth Commission