Gender based violence and bystander intervention programmes - an investigation into community members’ knowledge, attitudes and confidence to intervene

  • Jade Craven
Keywords: Gender based violence, Violence against women and girls, Bystander intervention, Community, Covid-19, Pandemic, Intimate partner violence


Background: Gender based violence (GBV) and more specifically violence against women and girls (VAWG) is global issue which occurs at alarming rates, with an estimated one in three women having experienced some form of GBV inflicted by an intimate partner or non-partner at some point in their life. VAWG and GBV was a pandemic in itself long before the outbreak of COVID-19, however since its outbreak, VAWG has been exacerbated, notably in, but not limited to, the domestic sphere. Bystander intervention (BI) programmes have shown potential as a main preventive strategy for GBV and VAWG and is considered one method to change societal attitudes in an attempt to reduce the prevalence of related violence. Such programmes have typically been implemented in education settings, with few programmes implemented in the wider community. The aim of this project was to evaluate what level of awareness and knowledge members within communities have regarding GBV and BI, their attitudes towards GBV, their confidence of being an active bystander and the need/want for BI programmes as an approach to reduce VAWG.

Methods: A quantitative approach was used (with the inclusion of some open-ended questions) through an online survey. The survey drew on Banyard’s Confidence Scale, the Bystander Attitude Scale revised, the Bystander Behaviour Scale Revised and the Intent to Help Scale. The survey covered questions on participant’s basic demographics, their knowledge of GBV and BI, their attitudes to GBV, their confidence and readiness to intervene and the perceived participant need for BI in community settings. Participants (n=130) were recruited using a convenience sampling method via social media. Quantitative data was analysed using descriptive and correlational statistics in SPSS. Open-ended qualitative survey answers were transcribed and coded. This study was approved by the Research Ethics Committee at Liverpool John Moores University.

Results: Data analysis revealed that the majority of participants had some understanding and awareness of GBV and BI, with most (60.7%, n=79) participants acknowledging that GBV is an issue in their community. The results of this study found that over half of the respondents had heard of the term GBV (52.7%) with a significant relationship between individuals who were educated and their knowledge of GBV (P= .016). A significant effect was observed between participants’ attitudes towards GBV and whether they had heard of the term GBV (P = .001). There was no significant relationship discovered between individuals’ attitudes towards GBV and their age, employment status or whether they had heard of BI. Over half (58.1%, n= 75) of participants reported having previously heard of the term BI. There was no significant correlation reported between having heard of BI and level of education age or employment status. There was a significant relationship between Individuals’ confidence to intervene in cases of GBV and having heard of GBV (P= .033) suggesting that those previous knowledge and understanding of GBV have higher confidence to intervene.

Conclusions: BI have the ability to constructively engage men and women in the fight against violence towards women. Positive changes in behavioural, cognitive, and attitudinal indicators have been documented after bystander interventions. The use of the socio-ecological model has pinpointed numerous protective factors across the societal, community, interpersonal and individual levels which can help develop future BI programmes as a primary preventive method against GBV and VAWG. Further research into the effectiveness of BI in low income and high alcohol dependence areas are needed to fully understand the effectiveness of BI in communities where GBV incidence remains high.