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Defining violence against women


The United Nations defines violence against women as ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life’.

Generally, the most pervasive form of violence experienced by women in Australia is violence perpetrated by an intimate partner or family member (commonly referred to as domestic or family violence) and sexual assault (by an intimate partner or someone other than a partner).

Sexual assault is an act of a sexual nature carried out against a person's will through the use of physical force, intimidation or coercion. It can refer to a broad range of behaviours that may include sexual threats, assault with an object, enforced prostitution or enforced sexual activity with a perpetrator or their acquaintances.

While some groups of women are more at risk of experiencing domestic, family or sexual violence than others, these forms of violence occur in all Australian communities and across all socio-economic groups. The underlying causes are complex and not fully understood, but there is general agreement that gender inequality is a key determinant of violence against women.

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