An AFL game at night in a stadium. Photo by Daniel Anthony, source Unsplash.

Footy Finals and Domestic Violence Spikes; Are Current National Initiatives Working?

Footy Finals and Domestic Violence Spikes; Are Current National Initiatives Working?

Melanie Parker – PHAA intern
Geraldine Vaughan – co-convenor, Women’s Health SIG PHAA

The 2021 footy season ended with thrilling finals for both AFL and NRL codes.

Yet, alongside the finals celebrations runs another thread: the known spikes in domestic violence rates on days of sporting significance. The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education published a report in 2018 outlining the link between rugby league’s State of Origin game nights and increased domestic violence. Another report published in the UK regarding soccer found that domestic violence spiked after major games.

The sense of dread that domestic violence victims-survivors must feel around this time of year is unimaginable. There are multiple theories on why these events drive domestic violence, including alcohol consumption throughout games, and the emotional investment in games.

Of course, domestic violence associated with sporting events are a manifestation of underlying gender-based violence (GBV). GBV – any intentional harmful act against individuals or groups based on gender – may be physical, sexual, psychological, or economic. It can include intimate partner, sexual and family violence, human trafficking, or forced marriages, with women the predominant victims. GBV is the result of gender inequities, linked to socioeconomic, community and situational factors like male dominance/control, substance use, and a history of family violence. Flow-on effects include homelessness for women (and children) escaping domestic violence, with significant economic and health implications.

The recent National Women’s Safety Summit discussed several safety issues still pervasive in Australia’s society, including GBV which – while potentially impacting all women – disproportionately affects disabled women, women in financial hardship, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

The PHAA policy statement also notes the different rates of violence experienced by different sexual orientation and identity groups. As mentioned in this statement, there is currently a lack of firm research evidence for GBV interventions, however there are many promising programs designed to improve outcomes, which were also flagged at the Women’s Safety Summit.

Prevention has been repeatedly noted as a critical aspect of addressing this pervasive issue. This is emphasised in the PHAA’s GBV policy position statement. However, due to systemic sexism being long-pervasive in society, it is a ‘wicked’ problem which needs to be addressed at multiple levels to mitigate the impacts. GBV must be reduced through co-ordinated, multi-sector governmental action involving primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention strategies.

Primary prevention addresses the determinants of GBV including gender inequality and community adherence to harmful gender stereotypes. Secondary prevention focuses on early intervention. Tertiary prevention involves working with victims-survivors and perpetrators.

Tertiary prevention in the form of working with victim-survivors and perpetrators is vital, but simply not enough on its own to stop the cycle of domestic violence. In the context of the Australian footy finals season, this would be like trying to stop domestic violence by managing victims-survivors and perpetrators after the game has ended.

Primary and secondary prevention on a multi-sectoral level, by government and non-governmental organizations is required to help reduce domestic violence rates at large, as well as mitigate the specific impacts of footy finals on GBV. These more preventive strategies would focus on the ways we can stop domestic violence from spiking before the footy finals have begun.

The PHAA advocates for the following key concepts:

  • Full implementation and resourcing of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022, including implementation of a coordinated national approach to primary prevention
  • Equality for women and gender minorities in Australia to prevent GBV (see PHAA Gender and Health Policy).
  • Initiatives to build the capacity of health professionals to assess risk, intervene and refer early and respond appropriately to the needs of those at risk of or experiencing GBV.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of legislative reform to ensure the safety of women and their children.
  • Effectiveness monitoring of GBV programs and standardised reporting

This blog is based on the PHAA policy position statement on gender-based violence, created by Angela Dawson of the Women’s Health Special Interest Group.

Image: Daniel Anthony/Unsplash



Leave a Reply