Who is at Risk?

Though risk factors vary, some characteristics seem to increase the likelihood of violence. The potential risk factors can be grouped into the following subsets.
  • Individual: Personal attributes associated with higher risk of violence include: a young age, lower socio-economic status, limited education, a history of abuse and substance use, and, for partner violence, the choice of partner. Partner traits that put women at risk include alcohol or drug use, low educational level, negative attitudes about women, and witnessing domestic violence against women or being abused as a child.

  • Family and relationship: Within families, risk of violence increases with marital conflicts, male dominance, economic stress and poor family functioning.

  • Community: Within communities, the risk is higher where there is gender inequality, and a lack of community cohesion or resources.

  • Societal: On a broader level, higher risk is found in societies with traditional gender norms or a lack of autonomy for women, and where there are restrictive laws on divorce and ownership and inheritance of property, or when there is social breakdown due to conflicts or disasters.

Prevention and Response

More evaluation is needed to assess the effectiveness of violence prevention measures. Interventions with promising results include increasing education and opportunities for women and girls, improving their self-esteem and negotiating skills, and reducing gender inequities in communities. Other efforts with positive success include: work with teenagers to reduce dating violence; supportive programmes for children who have witnessed intimate partner violence; mass public education campaigns; and work with men and boys to change attitudes about gender inequities and the acceptability of violence. Advocacy for victims, better awareness of violence and its consequences among health workers, and wider knowledge of available resources for abused women (including legal assistance, housing and child care), can lessen the consequences of violence.

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