Global Women’s Institute Finds Gaps in Violence Prevention Research

GW researchers will discuss their findings during a Dec. 3 event, a part of the “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence” international campaign.

November 23, 2014

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The GW event is part of the “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence” campaign that starts around the world on Tuesday.

Levels of violence against women and girls—such as female genital mutilation, trafficking, forced marriage and intimate partner violence—remain high in countries around the world. More than 30 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence, according to the World Health Organization.

If You Go:

What: Celebration of the launch of a special edition of the Lancet
When: Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 10:00 a.m.
Where: Jack Morton Auditorium
Tickets: The free event is open to GW students, faculty and staff, but seating is limited. Interested attendees should RSVP here.

Equally as troubling, there is a large gap in evidence on effective strategies to prevent this violence, says a paper published by George Washington University researchers in a special issue of The Lancet, the world’s leading medical journal, which was released last week.

Researchers from GW’s Global Women’s Institute (GWI) reviewed more than 100 evaluations on interventions that could prevent or reduce violence against women and girls. The study not only helps to identify preventative programs and strategies, but it also sheds light on the lack of evidence to support whether these approaches are working.

Overall, the researchers’ findings suggest that there needs to be an increased investment in violence research and program evaluation, particularly in lower- and middle-income countries.

They discovered that evidence for interventions is highly skewed toward high-income countries (Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States) and tends to focus on response rather than prevention. The researchers also note that most of this research evaluates programs aimed toward intimate partner violence. There is far less evidence on how to prevent other forms of violence.

“In view of evidence for the high prevalence and severe health outcomes of violence against women and girls, it is troubling that rigorous data for what works to prevent violence are still scarce,” the researchers write in their paper. “Alongside programmatic investment, it will remain important to support rigorous evaluations and guide international efforts to end this violence.”

Despite the shortcomings of the available evidence base, the researchers found some promising trends.

Several of the studies they evaluated show that it is possible to prevent violence against women and girls, including with high-level policy commitment and legislative reform. In the United States, for example, since the passage and implementation of the Violence Against Women Act, intimate partner violence has decreased 53 percent and intimate partner homicides have decreased 26 percent, according to the Department of Justice.

In particular, multi-pronged programs that involve entire communities and involve multiple stakeholders seemed to be most effective. Two programs, one in India and one in Ethiopia, used a comprehensive set of activities to keep girls in school and to delay marriage. Both programs involved life skills training, community service projects and mentors. They showed success in delaying marriage for young girls and also resulted in attitude changes in their respective communities.

The GW researchers’ paper and four others that focus on violence against women and girls will be published in a special edition of The Lancet.

On Dec. 3, GW will host an event celebrating the launch of the special issue during which GWI researchers will discuss the findings from their study. The event also will feature faculty from GW’s Milken Institute School of Public Health and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as well as co-authors from the Ugandan-based organization Raising Voices, and Puntos de Encuentro from Nicaragua.

The event is part of the “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence” campaign that starts around the world on Tuesday, the International Day for the Elimantion of Violence Against Women, and ends on Dec. 10, Human Rights Day. The purpose of the international campaign is to raise awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue.