Since the disappearance and murder of Sarah Everard on the 3rd March, women around the world have been sharing their stories of catcalling, harassment, being exposed to and assault or their fears of these things happening to them every time they walk down the street.
The pandemic of violence against women and girls (VAWG) or fear of violence are not new. It is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights. It is rooted in gender inequality and an impediment to sustainable development.
Violence is an outcome of interactions of a range of risk factors at the individual, relationship, community and the societal level. A robust strategic response to VAWG must address the risk factors at each level with equal importance incorporating work to address cultural and societal norms.
To successfully prevent violence against women in the future it is essential to tackle the root causes of violence, which includes challenging societal and cultural norms that can lead to violence. There is a need to place greater emphasis on the wider determinants of health and address wider system issues such as parenting, poverty, unemployment, education, housing and homelessness.
Many of the factors that affect individuals’ risk of violence arise through their circumstances and experiences in early life. A life course approach to understanding and tackling VAWG is advocated.
The World Health Organisation and United Nations RESPECT Framework for preventing and responding to VAWG describes seven inter-related intervention strategies that aim to address these wider determinants across the life course.
To support the reduction of violence at a population level PHE has:
- Brought together publicly available datasets relating to risk and protective factors and outcomes and created children’s vulnerability profiles to help local areas understand violence as it is affecting their local area and where to target early intervention and prevention
- Worked across the system with health, social care and policing colleagues through our national Violence Prevention Network to identify opportunities for collaboration to form robust responses to violence prevention
- Published a resource describing a whole system multiagency approach to serious violence
- Provided expert public health advice to the Department of Health and Social Care, Home Office and the Crime and Justice Taskforce
- Supported Violence Reduction Units to adopt a public health approach to violence prevention
- Published an evidence and good practice resource on Bystander Interventions to prevent intimate partner and sexual violence
- Most recently we have appointed a Consultant in Public Health to lead on violence prevention. They will be responsible for developing and implementing an action plan which will seek to tackle the root causes of violence, incorporating serious youth violence, domestic abuse and violence against women and girls.
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Contributor: Rosanna O’Connor