Eliminating violence against women: here’s one good place to start

A white ribbon on a black background

The statistics are alarming. Chances are you’ve heard them before:

1 in 3 Australian women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

When confronted with such a large-scale problem, how can we hope to make significant change? Where do we start?

Today, on White Ribbon Day, it’s time to make a difference.

Understand the Bystander Approach

The Bystander = anyone who becomes aware of a behaviour or situation where violence has the potential to occur or has occurred.

The Bystander Approach shifts the thinking away from the pressure on women to protect themselves to the idea that as bystanders, as others in the community, we have a role to play in preventing violence.

The premise of the Bystander Approach is making the community, as a whole, responsible for calling out violence. Being an active bystander rather than a passive one is something that you can do to make a difference.

Behaviour between all people should be healthy, age-appropriate, mutually respectful and safe. If we see people interacting and the exchange is non-mutual, inappropriate given their age, harassing and/or violent, then we must do something about it.

What we mustn’t do as a bystander is think that someone else will do something about the situation and therefore we, as a fellow bystander, don’t have to. This is being a passive bystander – we need to be active bystanders.

How do I support someone that I suspect is being harassed or abused?

Your response will make a difference.

There are multiple resources online, here are just a few:

  • The White Ribbon website has a series of fact sheets with helpful, practical information. Click here.
  • A University in the United States has published the graphic below with ideas on what you can say if you witness harassment, violence or abuse as it is happening. Important note: given this is a US resource please be aware “I’m calling 911” would translate in Australia to “I’m calling 000”.
A graphic showing words a bystander can say
  • Samaritans developed an app called “Oi App” that can help you to identify and speak out against different forms of abuse. It encourages everyone to be a voice against abuse.
  • 1800RESPECT has a great resource video available online about what to do if you are worried about someone you know.


If this article has raised any issues for you, 1800RESPECT and the Domestic Violence line are free services available if you need to talk to someone. If you are in immediate danger, please call 000.