Legal and to a certain extent policy/institutional change, on their own, have proven insufficient to reduce violence against women and girls (VAW). Many forms of VAW continue to be widely perceived as private, relatively unimportant matters, or a normal part of life. Campaigns for behaviour change aim to prompt “ordinary people”, as well as those in positions of authority, to change their knowledge, attitudes and practice related to VAW. Behaviour change can contribute to reducing the prevalence of VAW (primary prevention), and to ensuring that VAW survivors protect themselves from further harm (secondary prevention).
Both individual and societal levels need to be addressed to encourage such change (VicHealth, 2005. Review of Communication Components of Social Marketing...). Since the psychological and social processes that prompt behaviour change depend on many factors, different well-established theories emphasize different aspects that are likely to trigger change. One can appeal to people’s minds (cognitive theories) so as to influence their attitude about a certain behaviour (theory of reasoned action), enhance their motivation and opportunities to successfully test a different kind of behaviour (social cognitive theory), or show the risks associated with VAW and emphasize the benefits of ending it (health belief model). One can guide the members of your target audience through a learning (or un-learning) process (stage/step theories), and use the influence of others (social influence, social comparison and convergence theories) to encourage behaviour change. Appealing to people’s emotions (emotional response theories) is also considered a key element in prompting behaviour change. Finally, communication theory traces processes by which a new idea or practice is communicated in society (e.g. diffusion of innovations theory), and how certain aspects of communication influence behavioural outcomes (e.g. input/output persuasion model) (Coffman, 2002. Public Communication Campaign Evaluation, and O’Sullivan et al., 2003. A Field Guide to Designing a Health Communication Strategy).
MAJOR BEHAVIOUR CHANGE THEORIES
5.The diffusion of innovations theory traces the process by which a new idea or practice is communicated in society, and which factors influence people’s thoughts and activities in view of adopting new ideas (Ryan and Gross, 1943).
6. The input/output persuasion model emphasizes the hierarchy of communication effects and considers how certain aspects, e.g. message design, source and channel, as well as audience characteristics, influence behavioural outcomes of the communication (McGuire, 1969).
7. Social influence, social comparison, and convergence theories state that one’s perception and behaviour are influenced by the opinions and behaviour of others, especially when a situation is uncertain (Festinger, 1954; Kincaid, 1987, 1988; Latane, 1981; Moscovici, 1976; Rogers and Kincaid, 1981; Suls, 1977).
8. Emotional response theories suggest that messages which provoke an emotional response have better chances to prompt behaviour change than those low in emotional content (Clark, 1992; Zajonc, 1984; Zajonc, Murphy, and Inglehart, 1989).
Adapted from Coffman, 2002. Public Communication Campaign Evaluation, and O’Sullivan et al., 2003. A Field Guide to Designing a Health Communication Strategy.
The advantage of following one of these theories (or combining more than one) in designing a campaign is that one can build the strategy on an established body of research. However, applying these theories is no guarantee for success, as many factors influencing human behaviour are beyond the campaigners’ control. Hence, regular monitoring of the reactions to and outcomes of the campaign is of key importance.
BEHAVIOUR CHANGE CAMPAIGN APPROACHES
Some common behaviour change campaign approaches based on the theories described above include the following:
Zero Tolerance developed a strategic principle that is still widely used, the three P’s denoting key areas of intervention to end VAW: prevention (of VAW crimes), provision (of quality support services), and protection (legal protection for women and children).
Source: Rosa Logar, as quoted in EUROWRC, 2000. Prevention of Domestic Violence against Women – Good Practice Models.
2. Making VAW survivors aware of solutions and encouraging them to take action: This approach, often inspired by the health belief model and social cognitive theory, is essential in secondary prevention. It is usually combined with raising awareness for women’s rights.
Example: The Bursting the Bubble campaign is an initiative of the Domestic Violence Resource Centre of Victoria (Australia), a government-funded service for people affected by domestic violence. The campaign uses the internet to reach teenagers who have witnessed physical domestic violence against their mother or stepmother, or who have experienced direct physical, emotional or sexual abuse by a parent or care-giver. The colorful campaign site is designed to “help you to work out what’s okay in a family and what’s not”, and offers guidance as to how teenagers can protect themselves and where they can seek help. 72% per cent of the viewers who participated in an on-line survey stated they would use the tips provided on the website.
A fuller case study is available in E-Campaigning in the Campaign Communications section of this module.
3. Showing that VAW affects the entire society and must be stopped: This approach, also inspired by the health belief model, aims to encourage people who consider they are not directly affected by VAW, to recognize it as a problem that needs to be addressed. It can be an effective element in campaigning for policy/institutional change.
Example: In several countries, studies are available which calculate the cost of VAW for the national economy (e.g. Report by the Australia National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and Children, 2009). The findings from such studies can be usefully integrated in this type of campaign.
For similar studies, see the Costs and Consequences section of Programming Essentials Module on this site.
4. Addressing perpetrators and encouraging them to change:
Example: A well-known, successful example is the Western Australian Freedom from Fear campaign, which combined several approaches, showing that domestic violence is a crime that can result in legal sanctions, that spouse abuse also harms children, and that violence-prone men need specialized treatment. This campaign is anchored in the health belief model that seeks to influence the targets by exposing the harmful effects of undesirable behaviour, and offering practical guidance as to how such potential harm could be averted – in this case, by seeking socio-psychological treatment. Within the first 21 months of the campaign, the Men’s Domestic Violence Helpline received more than 6.000 calls, mostly (64%) from men seeking treatment to stop their violent behaviour.
Source: Gibbons & Paterson, 2000. Freedom from Fear. Campaign against Domestic Violence: An innovative Approach to Reducing Crime.
5. Making change to end VAW appear attractive and rewarding: Social marketing, grounded in the theory of reasoned action, seeks to convince its target audience that adopting a specific behaviour is good for them and appropriate within their society. It has been used extensively in family-planning campaigns, HIV prevention and other health-related issues. Social marketing is considered a highly effective tool in disseminating messages (WHO, 2009. Promoting Gender Equality to Prevent Violence against Women).
6. Providing models for target audiences to take action to end VAW: All theories outlined above can inform this approach.
7. Guiding the target audience through a personal development process: A relatively complex campaign approach on VAW consists in provoking and supporting personal development processes for the target audiences to “unlearn” harmful behaviour over an extended period of time. Such campaigns require a mix of mass communication and person-to-person contact.
Next Topic Campaigns for institutional change