Violence against women can take many forms, including gender-based physical, sexual and psychological harm. This human rights abuse occurs more often than police and criminal justice statistics suggest. Survey data shows that one in three women in the EU have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15, and roughly the same proportion (32 %) has experienced psychologically abusive behaviour by an intimate partner (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2014).

To prevent and combat violence against women, policymakers and other stakeholders may carry out initiatives to raise awareness, educate or inform various target groups. For instance, campaigns may aim at encouraging people in the social environment to intervene when they witness any form of violence against women and information initiatives may seek to notify women about their rights as potential victims.

Ultimately, these initiatives all share a common objective: to change behaviours (e.g. reduce violence, increase reporting of violence, tackle stereotyped media portrayal) within specific target groups (e.g. victims, perpetrators, bystanders).

Useful contributions from behavioural sciences

Given the centrality of behavioural change, behavioural sciences may bring useful contributions. Behavioural sciences – including behavioural economics, psychology, sociology, and anthropology – are based on the analysis of how people behave, instead of how we expect them to behave. Such insights can point out the causes of different behaviours. They can also help to target and design initiatives (for instance, by testing the most appropriate message or spokesperson), or measure ex-ante and ex-post whether the initiatives have a behavioural impact.

This literature review was originally carried out to support the co-funding of national initiatives tackling violence against women in EU Member States. Applicants to such funds were encouraged to incorporate a behavioural approach in their proposed initiative in order to achieve an effective and positive behavioural change.

Numerous examples of actual awareness-raising and education activities that embedded a behavioural approach in order to tackle issues such as how to encourage victims to report cases of violence or how to incentivise people in the victim’s social environment to take appropriate actions are put forward.

Main findings of the report

Four main conclusions are reached:

1. Initiatives should be designed to encourage or discourage a specific behaviour in a well-defined target group;
2. Initiatives should be designed using appropriate behavioural levers;
3. In order to ensure that initiative has the intended effects on the target audience, pretesting is crucial;
4. It is essential to set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely objectives, and to evaluate them.

Chetverikov - Fotolia.com

Chetverikov – Fotolia.com

Overall, this review shows why and how a behavioural approach can be incorporated into the design, implementation and evaluation of awareness-raising and education initiatives tackling violence against women in order to deliver behavioural change.

We invite you to read the report and hope you find it interesting. Feel free to contact us if you want to know more about this project.

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