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Violence Against Women: Learning from research

Violence Against Women - Part 2 (video)
We need to look at what and how we learn about violence against women, what are we looking at? Are we looking at crimes? Are we looking at harms, behaviours, or experiences? And how do we define violence against women? The problem of definition is always very complex. And it depends where the definitions are derived from and also that they change over time. It’s very important to acknowledge the relevance of gender and also gender relations to violence against women. Violence against women occurs between people and there is a strong gender component to that. So that has to be acknowledged as well.
And we also have to be able to research both the public and private forms of violence against women given what we’ve learned about the continuum of violence against women, what it is, and when it occurs. We also have to look at who we’re asking. Are we looking at individuals? Are we sampling, what is known as sampling in research? Are we looking at groups? Are we looking at whole populations? And are we tracking the trends and change over time? If this is an issue that has affected people throughout time and responses are changing, we need to be able to track that, too. So why should we be looking at violence against women? It’s widespread.
And it affects women of all ages, of all races, ethnicities, classes, nationalities, religion, sexuality, or ability. It’s a very wide ranging and serious form of violence and it affects women across the world. There are particular things that may add to women’s– or increase their vulnerability to these forms of violence against women. That could be their age, their disability, and poverty may increase that vulnerability. Women also may experience more than one form throughout their lifetime. If we remember the continuum, it’s important to recognise that one woman may not experience only one form. She may experience a number of different forms. She may experience in her private life and she may experience it in public or social life as well.
It’s also important to remember the private nature of that, which it is very important, particularly looking at rape and sexual assault and domestic abuse or domestic violence, is that these take place in private. It can be very difficult for people to disclose their experiences. And it’s important to recognise the gendered nature of these particular forms. So that a very strong personal, relational, social, and cultural reasons why women tend not to expose their experiences to others or to disclose them. And that’s something that has to be taken into account when we’re trying to understand more about it. But these are the reasons why we have to do it, too.
Also it’s important to be able to count the incidences of violence against women, it’s various forms, because as Sylvia Walby said, statistics matter and statistics actually summarise the world. And how and why violence and abuse occurs, it’s very important to understand it because it helps us to shape our responses to that both as society, as service providers, and community activists. So it’s really important. A critical role for understanding domestic abuse, violence against women, in all its forms is that we can help to change society. And changing society is something that can be undertaken in a process of learning. And this is after the Kolb Learning Cycle adopted in a more social sense.
If we understand concrete experience, women’s experience, of violence against women, then we can reflect on that, gather those experiences, and begin to create theories and concepts that will help us drive change into the rest of society. So it’s a process of learning and change on an individual level and on a social level, and, actually, within all of the domains of the social ecology that we’ve already discussed. So why measure violence against women at all? By analysing, we can look at trends. We can calculate the incidence and the individual times that people experience this and the people who perpetrate it. So we’re looking at victimisation surveys, crime surveys. And they are generally carried out in large populations.
They can be derived from crime statistics which are provided from criminal justice agencies or the police and so on. Or they can be done with random samples such as crime and attitude surveys, which have taken place all over the world. And looking at events, looking at victims and their gender and their relationship to the perpetrator, the perpetrator, their gender and their relationship to the victims, whether the violence has a sexual aspect and whether the violence has been gender motivated, so these are some of the areas of good practise that are developing. And this is very contemporary at the moment in the early 21st century. Global statistics on Violence Against Women can be quite eye watering.
The large number of homicides that take place where women are killed, and the relationship between the person who’s committed the murder and the victim of that tends to be intimate partners. So every year, intimate partners or family members across the world are involved in substantial numbers of intentional homicides. Half the intentional homicides of women are perpetrated by intimate partners or family members compared to 6% of homicides against men worldwide. In England and Wales, women are disproportionately affected by half of violent crimes. And a lot of these incidents are related to domestic abuse and private violence compared to a much smaller proportion of men. In Sweden, reported physical assaults against women rose substantially between 2005-2015 and they were counting the gender.
So these are some of the things that we can learn from statistics. Another way of looking at the extent of violence against women is to look at prevalence. And looking at it from a gender perspective, you can see the imbalance between the numbers of women affected compared to the numbers of men. And it might be worth taking some time to look at this slide just to see how the balance of genders is working out and playing out in the those, because something that’s very important to the study of violence against women is something called gender asymmetry. And this is where there’s a lack of equality or equivalence between two parts or aspects of something.
So whilst we’re not denying that these forms of violence can happen to males, it’s important to recognise that that is a gender asymmetry. And you’ve got a UK wide thing looking at forced marriage, which is something that is counted across the UK and not just in Scotland. So again, the area that’s being studied is very important. And it’s often difficult to harmonise figures to get a complete national picture. So we have statistics that are published annually by Police Scotland about domestic abuse, rape, sexual offences, and so on and so forth. So again it might be interesting to examine your own community and country and see how they gather, what they gather, and what can it tell us.
Is it collected in a way that expresses and articulates the gender of the perpetrator and the victim or not? Feminists wanted to understand how women experience these forms of violence. And they wanted to document their experiences. They wanted to reduce the fear of disclosure and to make these issues more public, to bring those voices and private experiences into the public domain. They wanted to ensure that women’s experiences inform the definitions that we used, inform the way we understand and conceptualise violence against women and also research, but looking at how this has informed women’s– how their experiences have informed change.
This is a very famous wheel developed by the Duluth Intervention Project, which was one of the first domestic abuse intervention projects in the world in the ’80s. And they talked to women whose partners were going through a criminal justice programme about their experiences. And they have codified the different range of experiences that women have in private life in domestic and intimate relationships. There are many different versions of this wheel. And their work involves active engagement with women who have experienced violence, so that their efforts are guided by their realities and their concerns. And that’s a very important principle. Similarly the anti-rape movements that developed around the same time in the 1960s and ’70s listened to survivors.
Consciousness raising groups was a key part of the women’s liberation movement at that time. And these were the spaces that they created to allow women to talk about their experiences privately and to see what was common amongst each of them. And it was a space that they had perhaps never been able to access before. And they were able to tell the truth to that. So just to sum up some of the key points that we’ve been discussing in this presentation, the global, regional, and national extent of violence against women has been shown to be extensive. And that’s something that is really important to recognise.
And it’s very important that we understand the relevance of gender and gender relations to investigating and analysing violence against women. The centrality of survivors’ lived experience to an understanding of that cannot be denied. And it’s very important that their experiences are kept to the heart of everything that we do.

In this video, Anni will be exploring some Violence Against Women facts and figures and what we have learned from research.

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Understanding Violence Against Women: Myths and Realities

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