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Preventing domestic violence: European review of current practice

Project Reference Number: 
1997-123-W

Preventing domestic violence: European review of current practice

Research on different approaches to preventing domestic violence and dissemination of the results, including recommendations for action at local, national and international levels.

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Comments

Crime Concern carried out research on approaches to domestic violence in Europe with a view to: identifying a range of approaches to domestic violence; understanding the cultural contexts in which they operate; identifying what works in reducing domestic violence; disseminating findings; and establishing a network of practitioners.
It did this through initial desk research, followed by contacts with Member States and visits to select case studies for further investigation. Ten initiatives were chosen as case studies, in Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
Some common themes emerged from the case studies (see lessons, below).

Lessons and ideas

1.      The importance of a country’s culture and history in shaping its approach to domestic violence came over powerfully in all the case studies.  Attitudes towards women, the family, gender equality, tolerance and privacy were particularly important.  This has implications for transferability, in that what is acceptable and effective in one country may not work in another.
2.      Domestic violence is usually a controversial and difficult issue to get onto the crime prevention agenda, and often depends on a ‘trigger’ such as a violent incident to attract public attention, and on ‘champions’ with the energy, commitment and influence to make things happen.  It can be difficult to maintain the profile of the issue when these individuals move on.
3.      Using ‘local agents’ can be an effective way of ensuring that a community is committed to preventing violence, rather than the initiative being seen as being imposed on the community.  This can be particularly important when town-based agencies implement programmes in rural areas.
4.      Initiatives which appeared to be durable had common characteristics.  They often had been developed in response to an identified need, had secured the involvement and commitment of key agencies, had secure funding for at least a year, had clear objectives and a work programme, used existing structures and networks, and ultimately became part of mainstream activity.
5.      Very few initiatives have been evaluated, although several were new and had plans to evaluate their work.  While many monitored the delivery of their work, few evaluated its impact.  Evaluation is essential to learn more about what is effective, and in what circumstances.
6.      Domestic violence is defined differently in different countries.  Specifically, some take a holistic view of family violence, embracing all forms such as partner violence, child abuse, elder abuse and sibling violence.  There needs to be a debate on the benefits and costs of differentiating these forms of family violence.
7.      Countries see domestic violence in different ways; as a health issue, an issue for the criminal justice system, a private family matter or an issue of social inequality.
8.      Looking at domestic violence as a community safety issue, and responding to it in the same way as any other community safety issue, can provide a framework for action and hep  develop a comprehensive approach.  It also helps identify the roles that can be played by a range of agencies in preventing it.

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Material available

Approaches to preventing domestic violence in Europe (English)
Approaches to preventing domestic violence in Europe: A summary (English, French, German)