Coordinated Responses
Our Partners
Related Tools

Develop a shared understanding of violence against women

Last edited: March 07, 2019

This content is available in


A common initial obstacle encountered when implementing a coordinated response is reconciling very different definitions of violence against women and/or approaching it from varying disciplinary perspectives (e.g. as a crime or as a public health issue). For example, professionals working on violence against women may not be well integrated with those in the field of child protection, despite their linkages (Humphreys & Carter, 2006).  Similarly, agencies working from a perspective that encourages family reconciliation and/or mediation, which is not  be appropriate  in domestic violence cases and may cause harm in cases of violence against women, may disagree about how best to intervene in intimate partner violence cases with those who advocate an empowerment approach. It is critical that the guiding principles which affirm women’s fundamental human right to be free from violence and prioritize offender accountability are the starting points for coordination efforts.

An inclusive multi-disciplinary approach that takes into account varying disciplinary perspectives is a crucial first step in developing coordinated responses and ensuring that all coordination efforts are consistent in framework and practice.

In addition all disciplines must embrace the guiding principles and be committed to the prioritization of victim safety and offender accountability for coordination efforts to be effective.

Create a mission statement

Many organisations develop a mission statement or collective vision about what they want to achieve.  A mission statement aims to inspire the group and serve as a guiding document to ensure activities are adding to a specified end or long-term goal.

A mission statement should:

  • Incorporate the guiding principles;
  • Reflect the core values of the coordinated response;
  • Be a broad-based statement of the organisation’s outlook and approach;
  • Highlight its long-range vision for the future;
  • Be direct and succinct; and
  • Reflect the distinguishing features of the organisation/coordinating body.

Some examples of mission statements:

Through collaboration we will develop coordinated, proactive and effective approaches to assist and empower women who have experienced violence against women in York Region. (York Region Violence Against Women Coordinating Committee; Toronto, Canada)

The Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women is a coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to ending violence against women and, through leadership, education, advocacy and political action, to promoting a coordinated response to women and their children who have experienced abuse. (Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women; Ottawa, Canada)

Our Mission is to coordinate an effective interagency and community response to sexual assault: serving all victims and seeking justice. (Winona County Sexual Assault Interagency Council; Minnesota, US)

Mission:  Building Social Movements of change agents opposed to and committed to eradicating Violence against Women. (Coalition on Violence Against Women – Kenya; Nairobi, Kenya)

WAVE is a European network aimed at preventing violence against women and their children and promoting and strengthening their human rights. (Women Against Violence Europe – WAVE; Vienna, Austria)

Promundo works to promote gender equality and create a world free from violence by engaging men and boys in partnership with women and girls. (Promundo; Rio de Janeiro, Brasil)

Our vision:  To create a safer society that does not tolerate violence against women, and where women are powerful, self-reliant, equal and respected. (People Opposing Women Abuse – POWA, Johannesburg, South Africa)

As groups begin to work together, it might become apparent that agencies or individuals are working from preconceptions that may be shaped by personal and/or institutional perspectives.  Presumptions commonly involve stereotypes about victims/survivors and perpetrators and the causes of violence against women and who is responsible for it.  These preconceived notions may influence which cases are treated as ‘genuine’ and ‘worthwhile’ to devote resources to supporting, investigating and prosecuting.  Capacity building and training on women’s human right to be free from violence is essential. 

Consensus-building exercise

The Wisconsin Coalitions Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault suggest reviewing a range of scenarios depicting forms of violence against women in different contexts as a helpful group exercise that can be used to address different understandings of and approaches to violence against women.  Discussing the scenarios can be used to identify varying perspectives and build consensus.  Questions for group discussion can include:

  • Is this a case of domestic violence/sexual assault/violence against women?
  • What is the response from the system?
  • What are the victim’s/survivor’s needs likely to be?
  • What options does the victim/survivor have?
  • Who should be involved to assist the victim/survivor?
  • What does/should communication between the key sectors/agencies look like?

Adapted from WCADV and WCASA (2009) Wisconsin Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault CCR Toolkit, available in English

Tools and resources

Step by Step: Tools for Developing a Coordinated Response to Violence Against Women (Community Coordination for Women’s Safety and Ending Violence Association-BC, 2011).  This guide, containing information and tools for building, maintaining and enhancing local coordination initiatives, includes a useful exercise for building a mission statement, which involves distilling key words from a group discussion of core values and beliefs.  Available in English.

The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault has produced a Key Project Concepts document outlining concepts and core principles essential to their model of multi-disciplinary working.  Documents of this kind can serve as a reference point and written statement of the shared approach.