What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is intentional and persistent abusive behaviour which is based on an unequal position of power and control. Domestic violence can include a range of behaviours used by one person to control another with whom they have, or have had, a close or family relationship.
Domestic violence takes many forms, physical, psychological, economic, sexual and emotional and can often be a combination of several of these. It includes forms of violent and controlling behaviour such as: physical assault, sexual abuse, rape, threats and intimidation, harassment, humiliating and controlling behaviour, withholding of finances, economic manipulation, deprivation, isolation, belittling and constant unreasonable criticism. Domestic violence is one element in the overall issue of violence against women, which includes, among other crimes, murder, rape, sexual assault, trafficking, sexual stalking and sexual harassment.
Domestic violence often occurs over a period of time. Victims of domestic violence will experience a range of emotions, including fear, reluctance, uncertainty, worry and stress. Domestic violence can impact upon a person’s self esteem and confidence, all of which can make leaving an abusive relationship a daunting and frightening step.
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Who can experience domestic violence?
Anyone can experience domestic violence. Domestic violence occurs across all groups in society, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, sexuality, wealth or geography. The majority of victims are women and children although research is highlighting the prevalence and context of male victims of domestic violence. Research and statistics, including MARAC statistics show that about 90% of reported cases are perpetrated by men against women. It is estimated that one in four women will suffer domestic violence at some point in their lives. The 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline is here to help anyone affected by domestic violence.
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Does domestic violence happen in gay/lesbian/bisexual or transgender relationships?
Domestic violence can happen to anyone. Victims of domestic violence can include, lesbian, gay , bisexual and transgender individuals. The 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline works closely with a range of relevant organisations to raise awareness in the wider community and elsewhere of the impact of homophobic, transphobic and same sex domestic violence on the lives of LGBT people. Help is also available from other agencies.
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Can men experience domestic violence?
While it is recognised and documented in research and statistics that the majority of domestic violence is perpetrated by men against women, it is also acknowledged and becoming increasingly recognised that men can experience violence from their female partners and in male gay relationships. It can be extremely difficult for men to acknowledge they are experiencing domestic violence and the stigma and shame attached to the issue can be a huge barrier in accessing support.
Everyone has a basic human right to live a life free from violence and abuse. Women’s Aid can provide helpline support to men who experience domestic violence and can also sign post to other agencies that can help. For many men, calling the helpline is the first step they have made in talking to someone else about the problems they face, whether it is information or emotional support.
» Information and support for male victims of domestic violence
» Support agencies for men
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Can women be perpetrators of domestic violence?
Research and statistics show that in the majority of cases, men perpetrate domestic violence against women. Domestic violence has its origins in power and control and is linked to issues of equality and gender. Deep rooted social traditions and values can contribute to the existence of patriarchal views that encourage men to believe they are entitled to power and control over their partner. However, it is becoming increasingly recognised that men can and do experience violence from female partners and domestic violence can also happen in lesbian relationships.
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How common is domestic violence?
Research has shown that approximately one in four women have or currently experience domestic violence. It is therefore very common. Statistics highlight the prevalence of the issue in Northern Ireland. Additional information on children, young people and domestic violence highlights their experiences.
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Is domestic violence a particular problem for Northern Ireland?
Domestic violence is not just a problem for Northern Ireland. To date, there is no robust research to indicate a correlation between the ‘troubles’ and the context and extent of domestic violence. Statistics indicate that domestic violence is a worldwide problem. Research shows domestic violence occurs in all social, economic, religious and cultural groups. According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, one in every three women in the world has experienced sexual, physical, emotional or other abuse in her lifetime.
The World Health Organization (WHO), in a global study of 24,000 women, Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women reports that 10-69% women from around the world stated they had been physically assaulted by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. The report also shows that 40-70% of female murder victims from around the world were killed by an intimate partner.
UNICEF reports that between 20 – 50% of women around the world have suffered violence at the hands of an intimate partner. Global statistics provided in this report indicate a high prevalence of domestic violence no matter which country we focus on. Examples include:
- Estonia: 29% of women aged 18-24 fear domestic violence.
- Poland: 60% of divorced women surveyed reported having been hit at least once by their ex-husbands.
- Tajikistan: 23% of 550 women aged 18-40 reported physical abuse.
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What are the effects of domestic violence?
The effects of domestic violence are wide ranging and will differ for all victims. In some cases the impact of domestic violence is fatal.
The obvious physical effects of domestic violence can include, physical injury such as cuts, bruising, broken bones etc. What is often not so obvious is the emotional suffering which can occur as a direct result of domestic violence. Such emotional suffering can have devastating effects on a victim which are prevalent in both the short and long term. Victims of domestic violence will experience a range of emotions, including fear, confusion, uncertainty, worry for their children, instability and anxiety all of which make it increasingly difficult to leave the relationship. Research has shown that domestic violence causes lasting damage to a victim’s physical and mental health, affecting all areas of their lives, including work, relationships, social life, confidence and self esteem etc. Recovering from the impact of domestic violence is a process which can be a long and painful journey.
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What causes domestic violence?
Domestic violence is deeply rooted in issues of power, control and inequality. There are many myths and realities about domestic-violence surrounding domestic violence, including that is caused by:
- alcohol or drug misuse
- mental illness
- earlier experiences of violence or abuse
The reality is, however that it is caused by a misuse of power by one person (usually male) over another. Behaviour is always a choice and those who perpetrate domestic violence do so to get what they want and to gain control.
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Why don’t they leave?
Leaving an abusive relationship is a very long and difficult process. This is made difficult for a range of reasons. If someone is experiencing domestic violence, they may:
- feel frightened and uncertain about what the future will hold
- feel frightened for the children
- feel it is in the children’s best interests to stay in the family home
- feel ashamed and reluctant to tell or seek help
- have such low confidence and self esteem that making decisions is a confusing and difficult task
- be isolated from family and friends and feel they have no one to turn to
- be worried about financial security if they leave
- not have information on services available
- have received a negative response, when they reached out to someone for support in the past
- be too exhausted to take on any life changes or major decisions
- still have feelings of love for their partner and fond memories of how things used to be
- hope and believe that things will get better
It is important to remember, leaving is a process and not an event. Society has a responsibility to support women who make that difficult decision. All agencies can play a role in providing support during a woman and children’s help seeking process. A positive initial response is crucial. Women and children need to be believed, supported and encouraged to take positive steps for their own safety and well being.
Unfortunately leaving does not always stop the violence and many women are still exposed to abuse when they leave the relationship. Research has shown that women can be at higher risk during this time. The British Crime Survey found that 37% of women studied who had left their abusive partner reported that the violence continued. Research by Lees (2000) highlighted that women are at greatest risk of homicide at the point of separation or after leaving a violent partner.
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What does the law say?
Criminal and civil law offers important protections for individuals who are experiencing domestic violence.
If an assault has taken place and is reported, the police will investigate the crime. Where they have a power of arrest, they will normally arrest the suspect. Where there is enough evidence, and if prosecution is in the public interest, this person will be prosecuted.
The Family Homes and Domestic Violence (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 allows victims of domestic violence to apply for protective civil orders. These are called non-molestation orders and occupation orders. A non-molestation order prevents a victim of domestic violence from being molested by a partner or close family member. It is served on this person and if they continue with their behaviour, they can be arrested for breaching the order.
An occupation order specifies who can live in the family home. This, along with the non molestation order offers added protection to victims of domestic violence by preventing the abuser from living in the family home and entering other specified areas too. If the abuser ignores the order and tries to occupy the specified areas, they can be arrested for breaching the order.
» Criminal and civil law for victims of domestic violence
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What is a MARAC meeting?
The MARAC is a victim-focused meeting where highest risk cases of domestic abuse are discussed and information is shared between criminal justice, health, child protection, housing practitioners, Women’s Aid as well as other specialists from the statutory and voluntary sectors. A MARAC ensures a victim of domestic violence gets the support needed for their safety and can also help to identify serial perpetrators of domestic violence. A safety plan for each victim is then created. MARAC meetings are usually held on a monthly basis and are chaired by the PSNI.
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How are individuals identified for a MARAC?
Practitioners are required to carry out a risk-assessment. This involves asking the person who is experiencing domestic violence a list of questions to determine the level of risk posed. If the risk assessment score is 14 or more, the MARAC threshold for high-risk has been met and a referral to should be made. Once a high-risk case is identified, the practitioner contacts the MARAC administrator to ascertain whether or not a referral has already been made to MARAC by another agency. If it has not, the practitioner can make a referral. Referrals are submitted securely (via secure email) to the MARAC administrator at least 8 days prior to the MARAC.
If you have been referred to a MARAC and would like more information or if you simply would like more information, contact the 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline.
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Do children experience domestic violence?
Children and young people will experience domestic violence in many ways and every experience will be different. A study by Hughes (1992) of families, who had experienced domestic violence, showed that 90% of children were in the same or next room when the violence was occurring. Studies by Leighton (1989) showed that 68% of children from families where there was a history of domestic violence were witnesses. The Hidden Victims Study of 108 mothers attending NCH family centres who had experienced domestic violence showed that 90% of children were aware of the violence, 75% had witnessed violence, 10% had witnessed sexual violence, 99% of children had seen their mothers crying or upset as a result of the violence and more than half of the women (52%) said their children had seen the resulting injuries. The Hidden Victims Study also showed that more than a quarter (27%) of the children involved had been hit or physically abused by the violent partner.
UNICEF research released in 2006, showing per capita incidence, indicates that there are up to 32,000 children and young people living with domestic violence in Northern Ireland.
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What are the effects on children?
Domestic violence can have adverse effects on children and young people and can be traumatic. It can impact upon all areas of life, including, health, education and the development of relationships. The effects of domestic violence on children are wide ranging and will differ for each child. A wealth of research has identified domestic violence as an underlying theme behind social issues such as, school dropout and exclusion, youth homelessness and young people engaging in risk taking behaviour. Children and young people have varying levels of resilience and all agencies that come into contact with children and young people who experience domestic violence, have a responsibility to build upon this resilience.
» Children and young people’s experiences of domestic violence
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How can I support a friend or family member who is experiencing domestic violence?
If your friend has trusted in you and disclosed the violence they are experiencing, this is a very positive step. It can be difficult to know how to respond, especially if you are concerned your friend might be in danger. However, there are ways you can support your friend:
- Be there – let them know you are there for them no matter what. Keep lines of communication open and ensure they can contact you at any time.
- Don’t judge – don’t get frustrated with you friend if they are not ready to leave the abusive situation. The decision to leave has to come from them. Be there to support them with their choices.
- Reassure – your friend may feel they are to blame for the violence. Reassure your friend that it is not their fault and they do not deserve to be treated like this.
- Get support – find out what help is available for your friend and share this. Encourage your friend to access support that is available. Ensure they have emergency phone numbers and contact details of organisations that can help. You or your friend can contact the 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline.
- Talk through options – talk to your friend about the abuse and explore options and choices. Try not to be judgemental if they are not ready to do anything yet.
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How can I support a neighbour who is experiencing domestic violence?
There may be many reasons you suspect this, you may have heard noises which have alarmed you or you may have seen incidents or injuries which have caused you suspicion. It can be very difficult to know what to do for the best in this situation, especially if you do not know the person well. You may feel reluctant to raise your concerns with your neighbour, you may feel it is none of your business, you may also fear that if you get involved it may exacerbate the situation.
It is important to remember your neighbour may be in danger. If you hear an incident and think your neighbour and any children living in the household are in danger, you could contact the police. If you are concerned for the safety and well being of the children, you could consider contacting the gateway team of your local Health and Social Care Trust or NSPCC.
If you know your neighbour well, you could increase contact. You may find that as trust increases your neighbour may open up to you more. You can then encourage them to seek support in the ways outlined above.
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How can I support a child or young person who is experiencing domestic violence?
If a child discloses domestic violence, it is vital that you respond in a way which is supportive and proactive.
Find safe and confidential ways of asking children about their feelings and experiences.
Listen and believe
Listen to what they are saying and above all believe them.
Explore options for keeping safe and help them to develop a safety plan.
Inform yourself and them
Find out and know what help is available for them, and their mothers.
If you have child protection concerns, refer to the gateway team of your local Health and Social Care Trust or NSPCC.
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What help is available?
Everyone has the right to live a life free from violence. It is important to remember, help is at hand. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence they can get help.
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I am doing a school/university project about domestic violence. Where can I get more help?
Hopefully this website will provide you with useful information and resources which you can use for your project. The frequently asked questions section will give you a detailed overview of domestic violence and will hopefully answer some of the questions you may have.
Have a look also at our up-to-date resources section. You can also check out our recent policy submissions to see how we have responded to key government initiatives and consultations.
Should you feel that you require additional information, you will also find links to other useful websites which provide a wealth of up to date research studies and information. Good luck with your project!
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Reduce Access to and Harmful Use of Alcohol
Harmful use of alcohol is associated with the perpetration of intimate partner and sexual violence (WHO and LSHTM, 2010c). It can therefore be hypothesized that reducing both access to alcohol and its harmful use will lead to reductions in intimate partner and sexual violence. However, the relationship between harmful use of alcohol and violence is complex—not everyone who drinks is at equally increased risk of committing violence, and intimate partner and sexual violence can occur at high rates in cultures where alcohol use is taboo. Furthermore, there is disagreement among experts on whether or not alcohol can be considered to be a “cause” of intimate partner and sexual violence or whether it is better viewed as a moderating or contributory factor. It seems clear, however, that individual and societal beliefs that alcohol causes aggression can lead to violent behavior being expected when individuals are under the influence of alcohol and to alcohol being used to prepare for and excuse such violence. To date, research focusing on the prevention of alcohol-related intimate partner and sexual violence is scarce. There is, however, some emerging evidence suggesting that the following strategies aimed at reducing alcohol consumption may be effective in preventing intimate partner violence:
Reducing alcohol availability: In Australia, a community intervention that included restricting the hours of sale of alcohol in one town reduced the number of domestic violence victims presenting to hospital (Douglas, 1998). In Greenland, a coupon-based alcohol rationing system implemented in the 1980s that entitled adults to alcohol equivalent to 72 beers per month saw a subsequent 58 percent reduction in the number of police call outs for domestic quarrels (Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Studies and World Health Organization, 2003).
Regulating alcohol prices: Increasing the price of alcohol is an effective means of reducing alcohol-related violence in general (Chaloupka et al., 2002). Although research evaluating the effectiveness of this approach in reducing intimate partner violence specifically is scarce, one study using economic modeling estimated that in the United States a 1 percent increase in the price of alcohol may decrease the probability of intimate partner violence toward women by about 5 percent (Markowitz, 2000).
Treatment for alcohol-use disorders: In the United States, treatment for alcohol dependence among males significantly decreased husband-to-wife and wife-to-husband intimate partner violence 6 and 12 months later, suggesting that such treatment may also be an effective primary prevention measure (Stuart et al., 2003).
Intimate partner and sexual violence may also be reduced through primary prevention programs to reduce the more general harms caused by alcohol (Anderson et al., 2009). Approaches for which effectiveness is well supported by evidence include:
Making alcohol less available: This can be achieved by introducing minimum purchase-age policies and reducing the density of alcohol retail outlets and the hours or days alcohol can be sold. Such an approach has been shown to lead to fewer alcohol-related problems, including homicide and assaults (Duailibi et al., 2007).
Banning of alcohol advertising: Alcohol is marketed through increasingly sophisticated advertising in mainstream media; through the linking of alcohol brands to sports and cultural activities; through sponsorships and product placements; and through direct marketing via the Internet, podcasting, and mobile telephones. The strongest evidence for the link between alcohol advertising and consumption comes from longitudinal studies on the effects of various forms of alcohol marketing—including exposure to alcohol advertising in traditional media and promotion in the form of movie content and alcohol-branded merchandise—on the initiation of youth drinking and on riskier patterns of youth drinking (Anderson et al., 2009). However, evidence showing that such measures reduce intimate partner and sexual violence is currently lacking.
Individually directed interventions to drinkers already at risk: These include screening and brief interventions. Alcohol screening and brief interventions in primary health care settings have proven effective in reducing levels and intensity of consumption in LMICs and HICs (Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Studies and World Health Organization, 2003). However, their direct effect on alcohol-related intimate partner violence has not been measured. Evidence indicates that drinkers may reduce their consumption by as much as 20 percent following a brief intervention and that heavy drinkers who receive such an intervention are twice as likely to reduce their alcohol consumption as heavy drinkers who receive no intervention. Brief interventions include the opportune provision of advice and information in health or criminal justice settings (typically during a 5- to 10-minute period) but can also extend to several sessions of motivational interviewing or counseling (FPH, 2008; Sheehan, 2008).
School-based education on alcohol does not appear to reduce harm, but public-information and education programs (while again apparently ineffective at reducing alcohol-related harm) can increase the attention given to alcohol on public and political agendas (Anderson et al., 2009).
As with most primary prevention programs to prevent intimate partner and sexual violence, programs to reduce access to and harmful use of alcohol have mainly been conducted and evaluated in HICs, and little is known of their suitability or effectiveness outside such countries. For many LMICs, programs such as efforts to strengthen and expand the licensing of outlets could be of great value in reducing alcohol-related intimate partner and sexual violence. In many developing societies, a large proportion of alcohol production and sales currently takes place in unregulated informal markets. One study in São Paolo, Brazil, found that just 35 percent of alcohol outlets surveyed had a license of some form, and that alcohol vendors (whether licensed or not) faced few apparent restrictions on trading (Laranjeira and Hinkly, 2002). Furthermore, in many LMICs there are far fewer specialist health facilities, reducing the opportunities for alcohol treatment or screening. In such settings it may instead be beneficial to develop the role of primary health care workers or general practitioners in identifying and alleviating the harmful use of alcohol.
Although evidence for the effectiveness of measures to reduce access to and harmful use of alcohol is only beginning to emerge and high-quality studies showing their impact on intimate partner and sexual violence are still largely lacking, alcohol-related programs for the prevention of intimate partner violence and sexual violence appear promising. The strong association between alcohol and intimate partner and sexual violence suggests that primary prevention interventions to reduce the harm caused by alcohol could potentially be effective. Approaches to preventing alcohol-related intimate partner and sexual violence should also address the social acceptability of excessive drinking as a mitigating factor in violence, while altering normative beliefs about masculinity and heavy drinking. There remains a pressing need for additional research to evaluate the effectiveness of such approaches in reducing intimate partner and sexual violence, especially in LMICs.
Change Social and Cultural Norms Related to Gender That Support Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence
Cultural and social gender norms are the rules or “expectations of behavior” that regulate the roles and relationships of men and women within a specific cultural or social group. Often unspoken, these norms define what is considered appropriate behavior, govern what is and is not acceptable, and shape the interactions between men and women. Individuals are discouraged from violating these norms through the threat of social disapproval or punishment or because of feelings of guilt and shame in contravening internalized norms of conduct. Often traditional social and cultural gender norms make women vulnerable to violence from intimate partners, place women and girls at increased risk of sexual violence, and condone or support the acceptability of violence (Box 6-3).
Examples of Social and Cultural Norms That Support Violence Against Women. A man has a right to assert power over a woman and is considered socially superior. Examples: India (Mitra and Singh, 2007), Nigeria (Ilika, 2005), and Ghana (Amoakohene, 2004). (more...)
Efforts to change social norms that support intimate partner and sexual violence are therefore a key element in the primary prevention of these forms of violence. Approaches have been adopted, although rarely evaluated, throughout the world to break the silence that often surrounds intimate partner and sexual violence, to try to inform and influence social attitudes and social norms on the acceptability of violence, and to build political will to address the problem. The use of research findings for advocacy has been shown to be promising in bringing attention to, and raising awareness of, the problem and in contributing to the shaping of reforms and policies (Ellsberg et al., 1997). Currently the three main approaches for changing social and cultural norms that support intimate partner and sexual violence are social norms theory (i.e., correcting misperceptions that the use of such violence is a highly prevalent normative behavior among peers), media awareness campaigns, and working with men and boys. Often several approaches are used in one program.
Social norms theory assumes that people have mistaken perceptions of other people's attitudes and behaviors. The prevalence of risk behaviors (such as heavy alcohol use or tolerance of violent behavior) is usually overestimated, while protective behaviors are normally underestimated. This affects individual behavior in two ways: (1) by increasing and justifying risk behaviors, and (2) by increasing the likelihood of an individual remaining silent about any discomfort caused by risky behaviors (thereby reinforcing social tolerance). The social norms approach seeks to rectify these misperceptions by generating a more realistic understanding of actual behavioral norms, thereby reducing risky behavior.
In the United States, the social norms approach has been applied to the problem of sexual violence among college students. Among such students, men appeared to underestimate both the importance most men and women place on sexual consent and the willingness of most men to intervene against sexual assault (Fabiano et al., 2003). Although the evidence is limited, some positive results have been reported. In one university in the United States, the A Man Respects a Woman project aimed to reduce the sexual assault of women, increase accurate perceptions of non-coercive sexual behavior norms, and reduce self-reported coercive behaviors by men. The project used a social norms marketing campaign targeting men, a theater presentation addressing socialization issues, and male peer-to-peer education. Evaluation of the campaign two years after its implementation found that men had more accurate perceptions of other men's behavior and improved attitudes and beliefs regarding sexual abuse. For example, a decreased percentage of men believed that the average male student has sex when his partner is intoxicated; will not stop sexual activity when asked to if he is already sexually aroused; and, when wanting to touch someone sexually, tries and sees how they react. However, the percentage of men indicating that they have sex when their partner is intoxicated increased (Bruce, 2002).
Media awareness campaigns are a common approach to the primary prevention of intimate partner and sexual violence. Campaign goals might include raising public awareness (for example, about the extent of the problem, about intimate partner violence, and sexual violence as violations of women's human rights and about men's role in ending violence against women); providing accurate information; dispelling myths and stereotypes about intimate partner violence and sexual violence; and changing public opinion. Such campaigns have the potential to reach large numbers of people. An example of a media-awareness campaign is Soul City in South Africa. This multimedia health promotion and change project examines a variety of health and development issues, imparts information and aims to change social norms, attitudes, and practice. It is directed at individuals, communities, and the socio-political environment. One of its components aims to change the attitudes and norms that support intimate partner and sexual violence. This multi-level intervention was launched over six months and consisted of a series of television and radio broadcasts, print materials, and a helpline. In partnership with a national coalition on preventing intimate partner violence, an advocacy campaign was also directed at the national government with the aim of achieving implementation of the Domestic Violence Act of 1998. The strategy aimed for impact at multiple levels from individual knowledge, attitudes, self-efficacy, and behavior to community dialogue, shifting social norms, and the creating of an enabling legal and social environment for change. An independent evaluation of the program included national surveys before and after the intervention, focus groups, and in-depth interviews with target audience members and stakeholders at various levels. It found that the program had facilitated implementation of the Domestic Violence Act of 1998, had positively impacted on problematic social norms and beliefs (such as that intimate partner violence is a private matter), and had improved levels of knowledge of where to seek help. Attempts were also made to measure its impact on violent behavior, but there were insufficient data to determine this accurately (Usdin et al., 2005).
As the Soul City project indicates, evidence is emerging that media campaigns combined with other educational opportunities can change knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs related to intimate partner and sexual violence. Although good campaigns can increase knowledge and awareness, influence perceptions and attitudes, and foster political will for action, evidence of their effectiveness in changing behavior remains insufficient (Whitaker et al., 2007a).
Working with men and boys—There has been an increasing tendency to focus efforts to change social and cultural norms on adolescent males or younger boys using universal or targeted programs that are delivered through a variety of mechanisms, including school-based initiatives, community mobilization, and public awareness campaigns.
Objectives typically include increasing an individual's knowledge, changing attitudes toward gender norms and violence, and changing social norms around masculinity, power, gender, and violence. Some programs also aim to develop the capacity and confidence of boys and young men to speak up and intervene against violence, with the goal of changing the social climate in which it occurs (Katz, 2006). Failure to engage men and boys in prevention may result in the type of negative effects seen in some settings where cultural shifts and other changes have taken place in the absence of efforts to engage them (Box 6-4).
Nicaraguan Backlash Shows the Need to Engage Men as Well. Since 2000, Nicaragua has pioneered a number of initiatives to protect women against domestic violence. These have included: a network of police stations for women (Comisaria de la Mujer) where (more...)
A review of programs that work with men and boys to prevent violence against women (Barker et al., 2007) included 13 primary prevention programs, 5 of which were implemented in LMICs. Four of these programs were judged by the reviewers to be “effective,” six “promising,” and three “unclear.” For example, one community outreach and mobilization campaign in Nicaragua judged to be effective was called Violence Against Women: A Disaster We Can Prevent as Men (Solórzano et al., 2000). This was aimed at men aged 20-39 years who were affected by Hurricane Mitch. The campaign's main messages addressed men's ability and responsibility to help prevent or reduce violence against their partners. Constructing masculinity without intimate partner violence was a group-education program aimed at men in periurban districts of Managua, Nicaragua (Welsh, 1997). The effect of the program was, however, unclear because of the weakness of the outcome evaluation.
Indeed, the methodological quality of most of the outcome evaluations was very low, and outcome measures consisted mainly of attitude changes and self-reported rates of gender-based violence, often using only small sample sizes. One campaign in New South Wales in Australia—Violence Against Women: It's Against All the Rules—targeted 21- to 29-year-old men and aimed to influence their attitudes. Sports celebrities delivered the message that violence toward women is unacceptable and that a masculine man is not a violent man. It also sought to enhance the community's capacity to challenge and address violence against women. A post-campaign survey indicated that the campaign achieved some positive results: 83 percent of the respondents reported that the message of the campaign was that violence against women is “not on,” and 59 percent of respondents could recall the campaign slogan. However, 91 percent of the target group reported that the issue was not one they would talk about with their peers, irrespective of the campaign.
Similarly, in the United States Men Can Stop Rape runs a public education campaign for men and boys with the message: “My strength is not for hurting.” This campaign runs in conjunction with Men of Strength (MOST) clubs—a primary prevention program that provides high-school-age young men with a structured and supportive space to learn about healthy masculinity and the redefining of male strength.
Although programs to alter cultural and social norms are among the most visible and ubiquitous of all strategies for preventing intimate partner and sexual violence, they remain one of the least evaluated. Even where evaluations have been undertaken, these have typically measured changes in attitudes and beliefs rather than in the occurrence of the violent behaviors themselves, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions on their effectiveness in actually preventing intimate partner and sexual violence. Nonetheless, some evidence is emerging to support the use of the three types of programs reviewed above in changing the social and cultural gender norms that support intimate partner and sexual violence. However, these must now be taken to scale and more rigorously evaluated.