Supporting women living with violence
Strengthen formal and informal support systems for women living with violence.
The Study found that few women sought help and support from formal services or institutions (e.g. social workers, counsellors, shelters). This reflects many factors, one of the most important being simply the lack of such services, particularly in rural areas. In addition, women lacked confidence that existing services and authorities would listen with sensitivity or impartiality, or could make any difference to their situation. This highlights the need for better and more accessible support services where women can safely disclose their experience of violence.
While formal services offered by health or justice-related institutions should be expanded or improved, other models of service provision should also be explored, building on the existing sources of informal support to which women often turn. They could include sensitizing religious leaders and other respected local persons to the problem, and encouraging them to become involved in providing support, and even temporary refuge, for abused women. Training and orientation of such organizations on the issues involved, including the gendered and stigmatized nature of the problem, procedural matters such as confidentiality, and the complexities of responding to partner violence would be required.
Since abused women are most likely to seek help from informal networks of friends, relatives and neighbours, strengthening these networks is important so that when women do reach out to friends and family, they are better able to respond in a sympathetic and supportive manner. Media activities highlighting the extent of violence and promoting the role of friends, neighbours, and relatives, as well as interventions to reduce the social stigma around violence may all help to reinforce constructive responses.