Reducing sexual and gender-based violence

Program Leads:  Professor Leesa Hooker  and Dr Jessica Ison

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical and / or sexual violence in their lifetime, mostly by an intimate partner. This research program aims to build a body of evidence for effective interventions to prevent and reduce the effects of sexual and gender-based violence, especially those that can be delivered in primary health care and community settings.

We also acknowledge the importance to tailor prevention and response intervention, such as work with victim-survivors from various communities to ensure our research address the needs of all victim-survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

ReGeN: Reducing Gender-based Violence Network

Promoting collaboration and partnerships to advance innovation in research, evaluation and knowledge translation in regards to gender-based violence

Gender-based violence is a public health and human rights issue affecting the health and well-being of everyone across the globe, and in particular women and children. The Reducing Gender-based violence Network (ReGeN) has been established to draw together the breadth of expertise across La Trobe University working on this important issue.

Based at the Judith Lumley Centre and led by Professor Leesa Hooker, and co-chaired by Dr Kirsty Forsdike and Dr Jess Ison the aim of the network is to encourage collaboration and partnerships, with the aim of fostering innovation in gender-based violence research, evaluation and knowledge translation.

For more information about the network, see the ReGeN website or contact Desireé LaGrappe, ReGeN Coordinator:

Visit ReGeN website

Training healthcare providers to help women survivors of violence in Timor-Leste

The development of high-quality learning materials and positive evaluation findings led to the training course being taken up by all six universities in Timor-Leste that offer nursing, midwifery and public health degrees.

The rate of violence against women varies significantly across countries. In Timor-Leste, it is estimated that 58% of women will experience physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence over their lifetime, with cultural practices, attitudes, poverty and social exclusion of women contributing factors. Historically, women have not been supported to disclose their experiences of violence outside the family.

The Judith Lumley Centre worked with women survivors of violence, midwives, and community leaders to adapt the WHO curriculum to a training course and learning materials for health workers in Timor-Leste. Designed to align with existing WHO training, it is available in Tetum and English. It better equips nurses, midwives and doctors to recognise and help survivors of domestic and sexual violence. The program includes skills-based exercises and real stories told by survivors and experienced health workers. The program was piloted and evaluated with student nurses and midwives and demonstrated a clear improvement in students’ understanding of this complex area. The Judith Lumley Centre will have an ongoing role in training, mentoring and supporting lecturers teaching the subject.

Research team: Kayli Wild, Angela Taft, Leesa Hooker; in collaboration with Lidia Gomes, Timor-Leste National University; Angelina Fernandes, Cristal Institute, Timor-Leste; Guilhermina de Araujo, Institute for Human Security and Social Change, La Trobe University; Luisa Marcal, PRADET Timor-Leste

The Judith Lumley Centre has been asked to modify the materials to train the existing health workforce in Timor-Leste in collaboration with Health Alliance International. The research team was also invited to be on the steering committee for the US$15m UN Spotlight Initiative to address gender-based violence in Timor.

The learning materials, videos and reports are freely available to governments, universities, NGOs and anyone striving to transform health systems to be safer, more empathetic and supportive places for people who have been subjected to domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse. The Centre is actively seeking opportunities to work with key partners to implement and evaluate this world class program where there is an identified need.

Access Training Materials

Culturally safe domestic and family violence training (Harmony)

Testing the effectiveness of culturally safe domestic and family violence (DFV) training to increase the rates of GPs who identify, document and refer women experiencing DFV - especially those of migrant/refugee background

The Harmony study is an adaptation of a highly successful UK trial (Feder et al, 2006), with the addition of elements from two Australian studies, WEAVE (Hegarty et al, 2013) and MOSAIC (Taft et al, 2009), including cultural safety.

The primary aim is to test the effectiveness of culturally safe domestic and family violence (DFV) training, combined with the year-long support of a bilingual advocate support worker, to increase the rates of GP identification, documentation and referrals of women experiencing DFV, especially those of migrant/refugee background.

A secondary aim is to evaluate routine GP systems software developed to collect aggregated anonymised patient data on the identification, safety planning and referral of DFV incidents, as well as increase the coding of patient ethnicity.

Research teamAngela Taft, Felicity Young, Molly Allen, Bijaya Pokharel; in collaboration with Alan Shiell, La Trobe University; Gene Feder, Bristol University, UK; Kelsey Hegarty and Douglas Boyle, University of Melbourne; Danielle Mazza, Monash University; Jane Yelland and Cattram Nguyen, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute; Ruth Fox, InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence; Claudia Garcia-Moreno, World Health Organization

The HARMONY study has developed an RACGP accredited curriculum for primary care clinical and administrative staff that is culturally safe and sustainable, for co-delivery by a GP educator with a bilingual/bicultural DFV advocate educator. We have also designed quick methods for GPs to enter DFV and ethnicity data onto clinic computers.

Harmony webpage

Preventing violence against women and family violence

An evidence review to provide key information for Respect Victoria to set a research agenda

It was important to initiate a research agenda within Respect Victoria’s establishment phase. The review set out current evaluation research on the prevention of family violence (FV) and violence against women (VAW) before it occurs, what interventions or programmatic elements of interventions are effective, and the extent and nature of current research funding for primary prevention interventions.

There are two parts to the Evidence Review: a critical review of the recent national and international literature on the effectiveness of primary prevention interventions in FV and VAW; and a scan of current research funding in primary prevention of FV and VAW in Australia.

Research teamLeesa Hooker; in collaboration with Kirsty Forsdike and Emma Seal, Centre for Sport and Social Impact, La Trobe University

The report was published in 2020 and is available from the Respect Victoria website.

Preventing sexual assault on campus (WEACT)

Women’s empowerment and safety through education and action

Young women on campus experience unacceptably high rates of avoidable rape / attempted rape by male acquaintances. More than 50% of Australian university students have experienced sexual harrassment and 7% have been sexually assaulted in university settings. The Canadian Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act (EAAA) program reduced campus completed rape and attempted rape by 50% (Senn et al., 2015), sustained two years post training (Senn, 2017).

The WEACT project aims to: assess the feasibility of implementing the EAAA sexual assault resistance education program into the Australian University context (recruitment, retention, fidelity); explore the acceptability of resistance education (and evaluation methods) for first year female students at La Trobe and Monash University campuses; improve student knowledge and self-efficacy of sexual assault; and reduce the incidence of sexual assault/rape experienced by students.

Pilot evaluation data will support a grant application for a national women’s empowerment (WEACT) project evaluation.

Research team: Leesa Hooker, Angela Taft, Jessica Ison; in collaboration with Kirsty Forsdike, La Trobe Business School; Elli Darwinkel, La Trobe Speak Up; Fiona Marshall, Monash University and Charlene Senn, University of Windsor, Canada

The project receives funding from La Trobe University and Monash University.

TramLAB: Improving the Safety of Women and Girls on Public Transport

This project produced 4 tool kits:

If you require any of these documents in an alternative format please contact the University on (03) 9479 8809 or email us at

Providing evidence and recommendations for the enhanced safety of women and girls on public transport in Victoria

There is a spectrum of sexual assault and harassment that a wide diversity of women and girls experience every day in their journeys to, on board and from public transport to home. These journeys can generate fear and anxiety that mean many women change their behaviours, the routes they take and the level of vigilance they enact.

In 2019 the La Trobe University team conducted 19 stakeholder interviews across seven organisations to explore what initiatives exist to improve women’s safety on public transport and where barriers to change might be present; interviewed 41 female students and staff who have experienced fear in their transport journeys to our Bundoora campus to hear about their experiences; analysed available data from public transport providers and the police to identify improvements in data collection methods and how trends in women’s safety could be monitored; and undertook an extensive literature review to ascertain what initiatives, evaluations and evidence-based practices exist both nationally and internationally.

From this research, XYX lab team members organised a workshop that brought together women from diverse backgrounds, stakeholders and designers to discuss, imagine and create a vision for a safer public transport journey. In 2020, the findings from the research were used to pilot an intervention on public transport.

Research teamAngela Taft, Leesa Hooker, Jess Ison; in collaboration with Kirsty Forsdike, La Trobe University; Nicole Kalms, Gene Bawden, Gill Matthewson, Hannah Korsmeyer and Isabella Webb, Monash University XYX Lab; Nicola Henry, RMIT University

This project receives funding from the Victorian Department of Transport.

Collaborative work

Centre for Research Excellence to Promote Safer Families

Researching the effects of domestic violence and ways to improve safety, health and well-being of women, children and young people

The Centre of Research Excellence to promote Safer Families (Safer Families Centre) is the first dedicated Centre to lead research into the health effects of domestic violence and abuse and the health sector policy and practice responses needed to improve the safety, health and well-being of women, children and young people. The Centre has been funded for five years (2017–2022) to research and collaborate to transform the health sector response to domestic violence and abuse.

Research team: Angela Taft; in collaboration with Kelsey Hegarty, Stephanie Brown, Cathy Humphreys, Kerry Arabena, Lena Sanci, the University of Melbourne; Harriet MacMillan, McMaster University, Canada; Gene Feder, University of Bristol, UK; Karen Glover, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute; Peter Anderson, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

This project is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, and is a partnership between the University of Melbourne, Murdoch Childrens’ Research Institute, La Trobe University and South Australia Health and Medical Research Institute.

An internet-based safety decision aid for women experiencing intimate partner violence (I-DECIDE)

This trial showed that some women experiencing intimate partner violence find an online tool a helpful source of motivation and support, but further research, development, and refinement of online interventions is needed.

Evidence for online interventions to help women experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) is limited. We assessed whether an online interactive healthy relationship tool and safety decision aid (I-DECIDE) would increase women’s self-efficacy and improve depressive symptoms compared to an IPV information website.

Research teamAngela Taft; in collaboration with Kelsey Hegarty, Cathy Humphreys, Laura Tarzia and Jodie Valpied, University of Melbourne; Nancy Glass, Johns Hopkins University, USA; Elizabeth Murray, University College, London, UK

This research project was funded by an ARC Discovery grant.

The outcomes of the study were published in the journal The Lancet Public Health in 2019.

Reconnecting mothers and children after violence (RECOVER)

Testing the feasibility of providing Child-Parent Psychotherapy to mothers and their pre-school aged children who are experiencing domestic and family violence

Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) is an intervention for children aged 0–5 years who have experienced traumatic events such as violence, and are experiencing mental health, attachment, and behavioural problems. Therapeutic sessions with the child and primary caregiver seek to strengthen the caregiver-child relationship as a vehicle for restoring and protecting the child’s health, development and wellbeing.

The aim of the RECOVER project is to pilot an Australian adaptation of the US-developed Lieberman CPP model of care for abused Victorian women and their children. This includes: recruiting 30 mothers and their pre-school children; delivery of CPP intervention according to family need (average 20–32 weeks); completing a qualitative process evaluation of the feasibility and acceptability of implementing CPP; and the piloting of the outcome measures. If effective, findings will inform future trials and the expansion of CPP nationally.

Research teamLeesa Hooker, Angela Taft; in collaboration with Cathy Humphreys, University of Melbourne; Sarah Wendt, Flinders University; Emma Toone, Berry Street Childhood Institute

Funding has been provided by an NHMRC, Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) grant and post-doctoral fellowship and by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) (April 2019) for interstate and rural expansion of RECOVER.

The study design, objectives and methodology were published in 2019 in the journal BMJ Open.

The safe pregnancy study

Promoting safety behaviours in antenatal care among Norwegian, Pakistani and Somali pregnant women

The Safe Pregnancy Study is testing the effectiveness of a tablet-based intervention to promote safety behaviours among pregnant women.

Midwives recruit women who attend routine antenatal care. The intervention consists of a screening questionnaire for violence and information about violence and safety behaviours thru a short film/movie shown on a tablet. The materials are available in different languages to ensure participation of Norwegian, Urdu, Somali and English-speaking women.

Research teamAngela Taft; in collaboration with Lena Henriksen, Mirjam Lukasse, Eva Marie Flaaten, Jeanette Angelshaug, Lisa Garnweidner-Holme and Milada Cvancarova Småstuen, Oslo Metropolitan University; Josef Noll, University of Oslo; Berit Schei, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

This study receives support from the Norwegian Research Council Grant.

The study objectives, its design and methodology were published in the journal BMC Public Health in 2019.