Executive summary

AuthorEuropean Institute for Gender Equality (EU body or agency)
Executive summary
9Intimate partner violence and witness intervention: what are the deciding factors?
Executive summary
The EU has long recognised that violence against
women is a violation of human rights and a form
of gender-based discrimination that has a major
negative impact on victims and significant costs
for society (European Parliament, 2019). Women
are most likely to face violence at the hands of
someone they know, with one in five having expe-
rienced violence at the hands of an intimate part-
ner (FRA, 2014). As women are disproportionately
affected by intimate partner violence, this report
will focus on women victims. While the principal
duty to protect women from violence lies with the
state, the perception that intimate partner v io-
lence is a private matter needs to change across
society, on an individual level as well as in the pri-
vate, professional and public spheres.
This report examines the factors that encour-
age witnesses of intimate partner violence
to intervene (including repor ting the violence
to the relevant authorities). It draws on EU-wide
desk research and in-depth qualitative research
in Denmark, Germany, France and Portugal. As
the desk research found a lack of data and evi-
dence examining witnesses  support for victims
of intimate par tner violence, this report provides
new evidence on when witnesses intervene and
in which types of environment.
Factors that enable witness intervention
Witnesses have a s trong desire to inter-
vene, but not necessarily to report vio-
lence to the police.
Friends and family are a key group for sup-
porting victims of intimate partner violence
through intervention. Neighbours and oth-
ers in the local community also show a s trong
desire to intervene. Co-workers are less likely
to intervene.
Securing the cooperation and consent of
the victim is a key enabler of witness inter-
vention. Witness intervention can include
talking to the victim, helping them access
support services, or assisting in reporting the
issue to the authorities.
Understanding intimate par tner violence
and knowing how to support victims
motivates witnesses to intervene. This high-
lights the importance of awareness-raising
campaigns that build understanding, ena-
ble witnesses to spot the signs of intimate
partner violence (in particular non-physical
violence), and provide guidance on how to
assist vic tims.
The ability to repor t and give evidence on
intimate partner violence anonymously
encourages witnesses to report it to the
authorities, particularly neighbours and
co-workers, who tend to have a less close
relationship with the vic tim and perpetrator.
In healthcare and social-care settings, pro-
fessional obligation is a factor requiring
witnesses to report intimate partner violence
to the authorities. However, these obliga-
tions vary across countries and the perceived
conflict between the obligation to report the
issue and patient–client confidentialit y can
deter witnesses from reporting.
Some factors can act as both enablers of and
barriers to witness intervention. For exam-
ple, witnesses are generally more likely to repor t
intimate partner violence to the authorities if
dependent children are involved. However, this
is not always the case as some witnesses are
concerned about children being separated from
their parents, or experiencing trauma as a result
of a police investigation.

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