Men in Alberta are more understanding of what constitutes violence against women and its impact than four years ago, according to a survey commissioned by the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters (ACWS).

The council released its findings Monday, in time for International Women's Day on March 8. This is the second time the survey has been conducted since 2012. 

In the last four years, the number of men who said they recognize that violence can affect women they care about has increased from 54 per cent to 65 per cent. Almost all men surveyed, 97 per cent, said violence against women is a concern.  

One in five men said they have witnessed abuse in a social environment within the last year. Of those, 61 per cent said they challenged the abuser's behaviour.

"I hope we continue in leaps and bounds in a positive direction," said Jan Reimer, executive director of ACWS.

Reimer says there needs to be more education about what violence against women looks like, especially since only 25 per cent of the men surveyed said they always consider yelling as a form of abuse.

Sixty-one per cent of respondents also said they don't understand why women stay in abusive relationships.

"(There's) still lots of work to do, but I think if we can make some dents in those, it's going to be better for not just women and girls but also for men and boys," she said.

The province plans to use the survey to tackle gender equity, especially in male-dominated professions.

"We are very happy to have these results because they'll inform decision-making across government and across ministries with respect to where we put resources and how we use our resources as the government," said Stephanie McLean, Alberta's minister for the status of women.

"Hopefully, my own son will be raised in that environment where we know what it means to be a feminist."

Pat Vargas

Pat Vargas, executive director of A Safe Place, says while the statistics are encouraging, they are meaningless without further action in support of women. (Zoe Todd)

Pat Vargas, executive director of a Sherwood Park shelter called A Safe Place, has worked with abused women for more than two decades.

Vargas says the statistics are encouraging, but meaningless without further action in support of women.

"People are willing to say they don't accept violence," Vargas said. "They're willing to say a lot of things. Now we need to see action. So it's not just the attitude. Now it needs to translate into actual practice."

Vargas says everybody should be educated about violence against women since it can be difficult for both men and women to recognize and acknowledge abuse.

"I'm appreciative of all the work that is being done with men," she said.

"I think as long as women also continue to resist violence, as long as they continue to resist oppression, we will be able to move society forward."