16 Reasons Why We Must Do Better in 2024: How We All Can Play Our Part in Preventing Domestic Violence and Child Sexual Abuse

Jan 05, 2024

16 Reasons Why We Must Do Better in 2024: 

How We All Can Play Our Part in Preventing Domestic Violence and Child Sexual Abuse

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit  www.1800RESPECT.org.au

In an emergency, call 000.

Every member of the community must ask themselves, “What can I do?” 

We will provide some key facts to help inform your action.

Content warning: this is an essential blog that covers many heavy topics such as domestic violence and child sexual abuse. Consider breaks while reading as needed.


2023 has been yet another confronting year in regard to domestic violence and child sexual abuse in Australia. This violence and abuse is preventable, yet the rates in Australia are shocking and abhorrent. In fact, the research tells us that victimisation rates of sexual assault has increased across all age groups in both males and females since 2019. 


According to White Ribbon, “...in 2023 a woman has been murdered every five days…” by a partner or former partner. “The opportunity for women to live full and equal lives is threatened by this ongoing scourge of violence and abuse, which is a violation of human rights and a stain on our communities. Men and women have the ability to make our world safer, more inclusive and more egalitarian, by joining forces to eradicate the violence...” 


The impacts are devastating. We must do better in 2024 to protect women and children from men’s violence, see stats further in the blog.


Boys and men are the main perpetrators of violence towards all genders. Data from the ABS shows that 95% of all victims experience violence from a male perpetrator.


The World Health Organization recently promoted the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, a key international movement to call for an end to all violence perpetrated by men. 


This movement is crucial because gender-based violence is prevalent in every country and culture. The health impacts of violence can last a lifetime, impacting psychosocial, physical and economic health outcomes. 


In support of this movement, I will list 16 pieces of research as to why we need to advocate for an end to gender-based violence and abuse of children. The evidence shows that education is one of the key prevention strategies to prevent both experiencing violence and perpetuating it.


It is a child’s human right to be provided such education. Parents, carers and teachers, it is your responsibility to ensure they receive it.  

1.Abuse against women and girls 



According to Our Watch:


  • 2 in 5 women (39%) have experienced violence since the age of 15.


  • 1 in 3 women (31%) has experienced physical violence since the age of 15.


  • 1 in 5 women (22%) has experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.


  • 1 in 2 women (53%) has experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime. In most incidents of workplace sexual harassment, the harasser was male.


  • On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.


  • In the year 2021/22, 5606 women (an average of 15 women/day) were hospitalised due to family and domestic violence.

2.Abuse of women who are Indigenous and/or have a disability



People from particular communities are at a higher risk of experiencing violence that can intersect with other forms of discrimination. Our Watch reports that:


  • Women with disability in Australia are twice as likely to have experienced sexual violence over their lifetime than women without disabilities. 


  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience disproportionately high rates of violence - 3 in 5 women have experienced physical or sexual violence perpetrated by an intimate partner.

3.Intimate partner violence of teens 


New research from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children found that “almost three in ten 18 - 19 year olds have experienced intimate partner violence in the last year.” A total of 29% experienced at least one form of violence in their intimate relationships. 

  • 25% experienced emotional abuse


  • 12% experienced physical abuse


  • 8% experienced sexual abuse


Importantly, the research also “revealed that teens having healthy relationships with parents and friends at 16-17 years played a critical role in reducing the likelihood of being a victim of intimate partner violence at 18-19 years. 

Specifically, high trust and good communication with parents during adolescence reduced emotional abuse and victimisation by 39% and 

sexual abuse victimisation by 77%”

4.Child sexual abuse 



The Australian Child Maltreatment Study found that child maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and exposure to domestic violence) is widespread in Australia. 


  • 62.2% had experienced at least one form of child maltreatment (58.4% of males and 65.5% of females).


  • 39.6% were exposed to the most commonly identified category of child maltreatment, exposure to domestic violence.


  • 32% physical abuse.


  • 30.9% emotional abuse.


  • 28.5% sexual abuse.


  • 8.9% neglect.


  • Child maltreatment disproportionately affects girls, particularly in the sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect categories.


  • 1 in 12 experienced rape.


  • When a child experiences sexual abuse it rarely happens once:


  • 78% more than 1 time 
  • 42% more than 6 times 
  • 11% more than 50 times 

The researchers found that “sexual abuse and emotional abuse are most strongly associated with these major adverse outcomes…cannabis dependence, self harm, suicide attempt. By middle age (45+) adverse outcomes were almost non-existent in those who had NOT experienced child maltreatment.”

In response to the shocking results of this study Anne Hollands, Australia's National Children’s Commissioner wrote in the Canberra Times on the 10/04/2023:


  • These are landmark findings for our nation…are deeply sobering…Child maltreatment is widespread… and associated with early and persistent harm.”



  • “Child sexual abuse in Australia is widespread, enduring and intolerable.”




  • “Child sexual abuse remains an urgent national problem.”




  • “Australia lags on child well being, ranking a low 32nd out of 38 OECD countries…high rates of child maltreatment are a sign of failed public service systems: poorly designed, fragmented, and lacking coordination across health, mental health, education and social services”. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is a key international standard-setting organisation which conducts valuable independent analysis and statistics on a range of economic and other policy areas.


5.Violence is the leading cause of hospitalisations towards the end of each year


Towards the end of the year families often come together to celebrate events such as Christmas and New Years’. Alongside alcohol misuse, this often leads to the increase of family and domestic violence hospitalisations, becoming the leading cause of hospital presentations. This is demonstrated in the graph below:

6.Males are the main perpetrators



Boys and men are the main perpetrators of violence towards all genders. Data from the ABS shows that 95% of all victims experience violence from a male perpetrator.

Respect Victoria states that “overwhelmingly, research tells us that violence against women in Australia is perpetrated by men. In fact, most violence against people of all genders is perpetrated by men. This does not mean that all men are violent. However, violence occurs where men hold sexist and violent-supportive attitudes, and where these attitudes go unchallenged. Drawing the link between violence-supportive attitudes and violence against women is important in engaging the community in prevention.”


 7.Male perpetrators are more likely to victimise people that they know rather than a stranger



Crime TV programs often perpetuate the idea that it is strangers who are committing acts of sexual assault. However, the data shows it is actually known men who are the leading perpetrators of sexual assaults, such as current/former partners, family friends or family members. Professor Darryl Higgins reports that “one in six women (and one in 18 men) have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or previous cohabiting partner since the age of 15.”




8.ARCHS study - understanding the human sexuality development and behaviours of 14 - 18 year olds



The human sexuality development and behaviour of 14 - 18 year olds tells us that they are likely to start having their first sexual experiences as teenagers. 


The ARCHS study surveyed 6,841 students aged 14 - 18 years. The results found that:


  • 60.6% reported that they had sexual experience or were currently sexually active


  • 58.5% reported having had oral sex
  • 52% vaginal sex
  • 15% anal sex


  • 86.3% reported receiving sexual messages or images (a sexual activity)


  • 70.6% reported sending sexual messages or images (a sexual activity)


  • The average first age of sex is approximately 15 years, although this differed for different sexual practices:


  • 13.6 years for viewing pornography
  • 14.6 years for deep kissing
  • 15.2 years for oral sex
  • 15.3 years for vaginal sex
  • 15.6 years for anal sex


By year level:


  • 43% of Year 10 students reported that they had experienced vaginal or anal sex


  • 68.9% of Year 12 students reported that they had experienced vaginal or anal sex


We need to educate kids on how to do this safely, with consent, respectful relationships and healthy sexual practices at the forefront of their education. However receiving this education in Australia is currently a lottery rather than a guarantee. 



 9.ARCHS study - understanding how poor human sexuality education results in poor health outcomes


The lack of age-appropriate, comprehensive human sexuality education often results in poor health outcomes for young people.

The same ARCHS national survey of students found that:


  • The average age of first unwanted sex is 14.9 years old


  • Of the students who had experienced sex, more than 1 in 3 (39.5%) had experienced unwanted sex.


  • Groups of people who experienced unwanted sex:


  • 55.4% of trans and non-binary students
  • 44% of female students
  • 21% of male students


  • While young people have reported having increased access to condoms, the use of condoms in Year 10 and 12 students has declined:


  • 38.3% of young people reported always using a condom
  • 48.6% reported using a condom at most recent sex (lower than all previous studies)

 10.Australian women are experiencing sexually related personal distress


One of the largest studies of sexual function in young Australian women, where nearly 7000 women took part, found that:


  • Half of Australian women (50.2%) aged 18 - 39 experience sexually-related personal distress. 


  • 1 in 5 women have at least one female sexual dysfunction


  • The most common female sexual dysfunction was low sexual self-image


  • Other female sexual dysfunctions include:
  • Arousal
  • Desire
  • Orgasm
  • Responsiveness


  • Women who habitually monitored their appearance, and for whom appearance determined their level of physical self-worth, reported being less sexually assertive and more self-conscious during intimacy and experienced lower sexual satisfaction.

Professor of Women’s Health at Monash University, Susan Davis, said:


“Sexual wellbeing is recognised as a fundamental human right. It is of great concern that one in five young women have an apparent sexual dysfunction and half of all women within this age group experience sexually-related personal distress. This is a wake-up call to the community and signals the importance of health professionals being open and adequately prepared to discuss young women’s sexual health concerns.”

 11.Gender pay gap 



The ABS reports that Australia’s national gender pay gap is 13%.


“... as of May 2023, the full -time adult average weekly ordinary time earnings across all industries and occupations was $1938.30 for men and $1686.00 for women…


…For every dollar on average men earned, women earned 87 cents.”

 12.Gender inequality 



There is a direct link between gender inequality and family/domestic violence.


Our Watch states there are 4 factors that consistently drive or predict men’s violence against women:



  • Condoning of violence against women.



  • “When we support or condone violence against women, levels of violence are higher.”


  • “Condoning violence against women occurs in many ways, such as when we justify, excuse or trivialise violence - ‘boys will be boys’ - or blame the victim - ‘what did she expect, going out dressed like that?’”


  • Men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence in public and private life.



  • “Violence is more common in relationships where men make all the decisions, feel they ‘own’ their partners or hold rigid ideas about how women should behave.”


  • “In the public sphere, when women have less independence and power, this sends the message that women are less valuable or worthy of respect - making violence against them more likely.”


  • Rigid gender stereotyping and dominant forms of masculinity. 



  • “Gender stereotyping is when we promote the idea that there are natural or innate ways for women and men to behave - such as that men are naturally aggressive and dominant, and women are naturally passive and submissive.”


  • “This drives violence against women because it can result in punishment for women, men and people of other genders when they don’t conform to expected roles.”



  • Male peer relations and cultures of masculinity that emphasise aggression, dominance and control.



  • “Men’s relationship with other men can be a source of support and comfort for men.”


  • “When they are used to promote aggression, dominance, control or ‘hypersexuality’ (through things like sexual boasting), they are associated with higher levels of violence against women.”

 13.Australian men report sexual feelings towards children and sexual offences towards children



There are alarming results in the recent study by UNSW and Jesuit Social Services, Identifying and Understanding Child Sexual Offending Behaviours and Attitudes Among Australian Men.

The results found that:


  • 1 in 6 (15.1%) Australian men report sexual feelings towards children.


  • 5.7% would have sexual contact with a child between 12 to 14 years if no one would find out.
  • 4.6% would have sexual contact with a child between 10 to 12 years if no one would find out.
  • 4% would have sexual contact with a child younger than 10 years if no one would find out.


  • About 1 in 10 (9.4%) Australian men have sexually offended against children (including technologically facilitated and offline abuse), with approximately half (4.9%) of this group reporting sexual feelings towards children.


  • This 4.9% of men with sexual feelings who had offended against children, were more likely than men with no sexual feelings or offending against children to:


  • Be married, working with children, earning higher incomes
  • Report anxiety, depression, and binge drinking behaviours
  • Have been sexually abused or had adverse experiences in childhood
  • Be active online, including on social media, encrypted apps and cryptocurrency
  • Consume pornography that involves violence or bestiality


  • Of the men who have sexual feelings, 29.6% want help.

"This study brings unprecedented visibility to the numbers of undetected child sex offenders in the Australian community," said lead investigator Associate Professor Michael Salter.

 14.Pornography is a default educator 



In the absence of adequate age-appropriate education from home and school children are getting a sexuality education every day from the world around them. One of the pervasive sources of information is online mainstream pornography. This easily accessible type of pornography that is predominantly aimed at heterosexual males and is viewed by children. 

Culture reframed states that:


  • Pornography is so easy to find online that 64% of teenagers said they’ve seen it accidentally when they were on social media, playing online games, or just browsing the internet.


  • 1 billion young people are exposed to porn globally per year.


  • 1 in 3 kids say they’ve seen explicit, hardcore porn by age 12.


  • 44% of males aged 11-16 who saw hardcore porn said it gave them ideas about the type of sex they wanted to try.


  • Minors who view pornography and other sexualised media are more accepting of sexual violence and more likely to believe “rape myths” (i.e., that women enjoy being raped).


  • Females aged 14-19 who consumed pornographic videos were at a significantly greater risk of being victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault.


  • Porn sites get more monthly visitors than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.


  • 90% of online pornography depicts abuse of women



The French Equality Watchdogs found that 90% of mainstream online pornography features physical, verbal and sexual violence against women, such as gangs of men demonstrating violent sex, hitting, choking and slapping women. 


As shown above, the data demonstrates that children are viewing violent pornography online. Giving them unrealistic ideas about what ‘sex is, such as, failing to teach them about consent, pleasure and positive intimate relationships, instead highlighting things like male dominance and degradation.


 16.Online child predators and sextortion



The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) defines sexual extortion, also known as sextortion, as “a form of online blackmail where someone tricks or coerces you into sending sexual images of yourself and then threatens to share the images unless you comply with their demands. Usually, these demands are for more images, payment or sexual favours.”


The ACCCE experienced a 60% increase in reports of sextortion of young Australians in December 2022. The eSafety Commissioner received almost triple the number of sextortion reports in the first quarter of 2023 (more than 1700 reports) compared with the first quarter of 2022 (600 reports). This is online child sexual abuse.

Culture reframed states that:


  • Child predators commonly use social media platforms to target potential victims, with 1 in 9 youth experiencing online sexual solicitation.


  • More than 80% of child sex crimes start on social media.


  • There are as many as five million predators on the internet and at any given time, about 500,000 actively pursuing children and youth.



The information above is confronting. It can be confusing to wrap our heads around some people’s lack of respect and decency towards very basic human rights and safety. 

The good news is that everyone can play a role in reducing gender-based violence and sexual abuse. We can Change The Story. We must do our part to prevent men’s violence from occurring. We have the potential to change these horrific outcomes via prevention strategies: 


  • Prioritising human sexuality education - the research shows it makes children less vulnerable to sexual abuse, delays first sexual intercourse, reduces the number of sexual partners, reduces risky sexual behaviours and increases the use of condoms and contraception.


  • Empowering parents, carers and teachers to talk to kids about human sexuality.


  • Empowering children with the knowledge they need to lead healthy lives and have positive, fulfilling intimate encounters.


  • Involving young people in matters that affect them - after all, they are experts in their own lives. 


  • Raising the next generation to reject rigid gender stereotypes and instead value consent, respectful relationships, feminism, safety and pleasure.


“Most 12 to 25-year-olds in the Netherlands say they had wanted and fun first sexual experiences. Dutch teens generally start having sex later than in other European countries or the United States.”




Men play a crucial role in achieving gender equality and reducing violence. Call out your mates and make an effort to protect women in public. If you’re walking behind a woman (especially at night time) cross the street to make her feel more comfortable and to show that you’re not a threat.


Resources for all genders, but especially men:


What is the role of men in ending patriarchy?


We all make excuses - what excuse can you stop?


Podcast with Professor Michael Flood addressing toxic masculinity




Parents and carers are responsible for providing their children with human sexuality education, and it is your child’s right to receive it.


As previously discussed, the data shows intimate partner violence is reduced when teens have high trust and good communication with their parents. Read our blog on this here. Regularly having open conversations with your child about human sexuality is beneficial for them. It’s never too late or too early to get started.


Parents and carers, here is an example for you to consider: 


Author of Girls and Sex, Peggy Orenstein, conducted a survey of 300 girls from two similar Dutch and American Universities. The girls were asked questions about their experiences with sex.


Watch the Ted talk here where she talks about the results found that the Dutch girls:


  • Had fewer negative consequences 
  • STIs
  • Unintended pregnancies 
  • Regret


  • Had more positive outcomes
  • Being able to communicate with their partner
  • Preparing for the experience responsibly
  • Enjoying themselves
  • Knew the partner well

So what was their secret?


The Dutch girls said that their doctors, teachers, & parents talked to them candidly, from an early age, about sex, pleasure and the importance of mutual trust.


What's more, while American parents weren't necessarily less comfortable talking about sex, they tend to frame those conversations entirely in terms of risk and danger, whereas Dutch parents talk about balancing responsibility and joy.


We might even go as far as patting ourselves on the back for having told them about contraception, STI protection, and consent and think to ourselves ... job well done. We can’t forget to talk to our kids about the positives and pleasurable aspects of sexual encounters too!

Resources for parents and carers:


  • My book "Talking Sex: A Conversation Guide for Parents” aims to support you with information about ‘sex’ (sexuality), safety, reproduction, diversity, pleasure, consent, health, positivity, bodies and more.


  • My book “Kit and Arlo Find A Way: Teaching Consent to 8 - 12-Year-Olds” helps your child navigate all aspects of consent, including how to negotiate a mutually enjoyable activity, how to manage disappointment, how to stay firm with your boundaries etc in an age-appropriate way 


  • Read some of my previous blogs to learn more about how to be an askable and tellable parent. 

How to talk to your child

A guide for parents to better understand the online world and how to protect their kids


The respect checklist  


Comprehensive sexuality education


Understanding what factors shape gender attitudes


How to look out for child luring and sexploitation 



Share this resource with your teen aged 16+. It has lots of helpful info on topics such as safe sex practices, respectful relationships, how to prevent STIs, and how to prioritise sexual health.


Another 16+ only resource from True 





Does your school offer adequate human sexuality,, respectful relationships and consent  education? Have staff been trained on how to deliver this information to students? 


Unfortunately many teachers, in my experience, answer these questions with ‘no’. 


Talk to the leaders in your school about implementing comprehensive, age-appropriate human sexuality education. One of the ways they can do this is by signing up to my program Virtual Classroom, available from Foundation through to Year 10.