16 days of activism against Violence

#HearMeToo! – but is there any progress?

Like every year, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence just ended at December 10th! Like every year, it started with the International Day to End Violence against Women at November 25th. Like every year, for 16 days there was a flurry of newspaper articles, interviews and campaigns with the goal to raise awareness about violence against women amongst the general public! However, when looking at the current numbers and the current situation, it is obvious that putting the issue at the spotlight for 16 days once a year is not sufficient at all to instill sustainable change.

Being female, living in a relationship or just having ended a relationship and living at home is still a major risk factor for experiencing some form of high impact domestic violence. Moreover, recent research indicated that across Europe only about 20% of victims of physical and/or sexual partner violence reported the most serious incident to the police. Not surprisingly, the reported numbers are too low and only represent the tip of the iceberg - most abused women live as shadows in the dark. Being a female victim of domestic violence often clashes with the image of a modern, highly educated and self-confident woman as we find them in the media. This certainly acts as barrier to seek help officially or to speak about it.

In addition, abused women are more often seen by representatives of the medical profession as first "frontline responders" than by the police. Unfortunately the cooperation between the various frontline responders such as the police, NGO´s and the medical profession is not working too well and the interactions between frontline responders would need to be improved. A few best practice examples e.g. Mutli-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs), which involve partners working collaboratively to improve the safety of high risk victims, or multi-agency forums which see partners sharing information on the lifetime of an offenders relationships in order to proactively investigate them and hold them to account in the courts, both of which are currently practiced in Scotland demonstrate however that in settings where all frontline responders work together in a standardized cooperative way measures will be sustainable and death of victims could be prevented.

A just recently EU funded research project IMPRODOVA - Improving Frontline Responses to High Impact Domestic Violence – is tackling those issues and is designed to provide sustainable solutions for exactly such an integrated response to High Impact Domestic Violence (HIDV). It is based on comprehensive empirical research of how police and other frontline responders (e.g. medical and social work professionals) respond to domestic violence in European countries (https://www.improdova.eu/).
Since, most studies on this topic are outdated and reliable figures and actual findings are missing, is the aim of IMPRODOVA to identify gaps in the cooperation of HIDV first frontline responders and will deliver recommendations, toolkits and collaborative trainings for European police organizations, as well as for medical and social work professionals to improve and integrate institutional response to HIDV.

The Medical Women´s International Association (MWIA), a platform for medical women and students to foster dialogue and action on various health issues internationally e.g. violence against women, is part of IMPRODOVA as a member of the advisory board and as a dissemination partner.

2018-12-12 by Prof. Dr. Dr. Bettina Pfleiderer, Research Group Cognition & Gender, Medical Faculty, University of Münster (Germany) and President Medical Women´s International Association