Effective awareness raising in cases of domestic violence

December 1, 2003


This report is the result of a small research project commissioned by The Women and Equality Unit, Department of Trade and Industry. Using focus groups, the study was designed to explore what information and messages are of most use to women wishing to escape domestic abuse. Seven focus groups were undertaken with a total of 29 women, some were living in refuges, whilst others were in contact with more community-based support projects. One group involved women whose male partners were on a perpetrator programme, and another was conducted in Asian community languages.

Selected Main Findings:

  1. The difficulty that most women have in naming what is happening to them as domestic violence inhibits their identification with messages and/or from seeking support, especially if the content uses explicit portrayals of ‘weak’ or injured victims.
  2. Messages aimed at actual or potential victims should avoid stereotypes and not over-emphasise ending the relationship or that all that is available is a refuge. Some concern was expressed about messages including the words ‘violence’ or ‘abuse’, in case these are interpreted as meaning physical violence only. A way to include other forms of abuse within messages needs to be found.
  3. The decision to seek help frequently arises in relation to a specific incident, often when children are thought to be at risk. This creates a ‘window of opportunity’ in which responses should be immediately accessible and useful.
  4. Posters can be effective in providing information, but professionals, friends or telephone directory enquiries are the most frequent point of contact cited by participants. A helpline number was identified as the single most important piece of information. Participants stressed that the ‘window of opportunity’ can be easily lost if women have to make repeated attempts to get through to an under-resourced line.
  5. For some women, particularly those for whom English was not their first language or where other routes were inaccessible, their only route to information was through professionals in the health and education sectors. Schools were, for some women, the only location where they were free to talk/find out about local services.
  6. Information needs to be available in multiple locations, media and formats, in several languages and on an on-going basis.
  7. Newspapers, magazines, public transport tickets, shop/supermarket receipts and cards were the most popular formats because of their anonymity and accessibility. Leaflets were a less popular format, since they are conspicuous and harder to hide. To a lesser extent the same problems were identified in relation to cards.
  8. Messages that are part of general public awareness raising should be sustained and hard-hitting in a similar vein to anti-drink driving and HIV/AIDS campaigns.

Internal Report: Everywhere and Anywhere: A Focus Group Study on Domestic Violence Information and Awareness Raising

Grant Holder: CWASU

Sponsor: The Women’s Equality Unit, Department of Trade and Industry

  • Project Team:
    Anjum Mouj, Jo Lovett, Linda Regan, Liz Kelly