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Interventions should be context-specific to enhance outcomes and “do no harm”

In addition to general guiding principles, which should be considered for all violence against women programming, initiatives working with the security sector should apply the following key principles to ensure the success of any programme and best possible outcomes for survivors.

Context-specific knowledge of the key elements and dynamics of violence against women are essential to avoid further harm to survivors or putting women and girls at increased risk of abuse. Initiatives should be aware of of their assumptions and focus on understanding the specific experiences of survivors and any potential negative consequences of their efforts. For example, discriminatory attitudes by security personnel involved in a community outreach activities can deter women from seeking police assistance and send them back to an abusive situation, where violence can escalate. Programmes can use the ‘do no harm’ approach to better understand the risk or potential for their activities to have unintended negative consequences for survivors. For instance, engaging women’s support groups during a situational analysis can help police to become more sensitive to the stigma experienced by rape survivors, and strengthen practices that respect their confidentiality, such as taking statements in private facilities. The approach involves seeking to understand, at all stages of the programme cycle, the possible consequences of a particular activity or initiative (for example, understanding the benefits and drawbacks for survivors when implementing mandatory arrests in cases of domestic violence), which can support more appropriate efforts to reduce women and girls’ future risk of experiencing violence and improve their security more broadly (Collaborative Learning Projects, 2010; Saferworld, 2004).