The Gendered Violence Research Network (GVRN), a joint initiative of UNSW Arts & Social Sciences and UNSW Law, is co-convened by Associate Professor Jan Breckenridge and Professor Annie Cossins.

What is gendered violence?

Our research explores the impact of gendered violence – also known as ‘gender-based violence’ or ‘gender-related violence’ – on all population groups, although studies clearly show that women and children are disproportionately affected.

‘Gendered violence’ describes the use of power and control over individuals or groups because of their gender. This encompasses domestic, family and sexual violence including but not limited to sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, technology-facilitated abuse, intimate partner violence, and violence among household members, extended families and kinships.

It isn’t limited to physical or sexual violence and can include a range of behaviours used to intimidate, coerce, harass and control another person, including financial abuse. You may also hear the terms ‘violence against women’ (VAW), ‘gendered misconduct’ and ‘sexual misconduct’ to refer to types of gendered violence.

What does the Gendered Violence Research Network do?

We bring together 50+ research affiliates across multiple disciplines nationally and internationally and connect with 1,500 external members. We all have a common interest in research excellence and evidence-based insights into gendered violence.

GVRN contributes to making real-world impact on communities through our innovative, research-led Gendered Violence & Organisations stream. We offer tailored training and advisory services for employers wanting to address the significant effects of domestic, family and sexual violence on their employees and organisation. We have assisted employers from over 50 organisations to strengthen their policies and build staff networks that can provide a workplace response to staff who may be affected by gendered violence. In some organisations this is a designated ‘first responder’ role.

Why focus on the workplace?

Research shows that while workplaces are often safety nets for employees escaping domestic violence, the strain of dealing with the abuse can also impact an employee’s productivity, performance and wellbeing. Violence and harassment can continue at the workplace – employees affected by domestic violence have described threatening phone calls, emails and stalking. Some have reported a perpetrator physically coming to their workplace and harassing and threatening other employees, placing these workers at risk.

We often don’t think of this, but there are many secondary victims of gendered violence who also need support. Employees who support affected co-workers may find that doing so affects their own productivity due to stress and greater workloads. Staff may also find they need to take time off to support a family member or friend.

There are multiple benefits for employers who proactively and effectively address the effects of domestic, family and sexual violence on the organisation. If a staff member feels supported by the workplace, they are more likely to stay in their job, maintaining corporate knowledge, continuity, productivity and their own financial security. This benefits both the organisation and the individual. By developing policies around gendered violence, organisations show leadership around respectful behaviour, maintain business continuity and often benefit financially from strong cohesive teams.

The benefits for employers include:

  • Reduced costs and increased savings
  • Fulfilling employers’ duty of care
  • Improved staff health, safety and wellbeing
  • Demonstrating corporate social responsibility
  • Positioning the organisation as an employer of choice

Research informs community work

Our research informs the work we do in the community and we believe networks, collaboration and strong, respectful organisational relationships are key to effective work in this area. We deliver research to government, corporate and third-sector agencies such as voluntary and community organisations.

We are currently involved in research that:

  • Examines the effectiveness of Safe at Home programs, which challenge the assumption that victims of domestic and family violence need to leave their homes
  • Strengthens the capabilities of the sexual assault and domestic violence workforce
  • Investigates male sexual assault in the Australian Defence Force
  • Evaluates sexual harassment prevention in garment factories in South East Asia
  • Identifies available research about the intersections between mental health and sexual assault

We also collaborate on hosting events like the Second National Dowry Abuse Summit and the incredibly successful Breaking Silent Codes forum, where a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women shared their stories around domestic violence and sexual assault.

How can gendered violence be stopped?

Research shows that we need a society with greater gender equity – where all people are treated fairly – if we are to stop gendered violence. We need to challenge narrow gender roles and make the dangers of coercive control visible. We need to pay attention to the specific needs of different population groups.

People who use violence and are abusive need to hear clearly that it has to stop. Children need to receive messages about gender equality from an early age. Workplaces need to continue to provide supportive responses to affected staff. Pay gaps need to be abolished and respectful behaviours need to be recognised, valued and supported.

Mailin Suchting is Manager of the Gendered Violence Research Network (GVRN) at UNSW Sydney.

Mailin Suchting