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Coping responses to intimate partner violence: narratives of women in North-west Tanzania


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This study sought to explore the variety of coping strategies that women employ in response to intimate partner violence. Coping strategies can help women tolerate, minimise and deal with difficult challenges or conflicts in their relationships, such as learning to be independent from their husbands and surviving trauma. Drawing on 18 in-depth interviews conducted in Mwanza, Tanzania, we examined two different coping strategies - engagement and disengagement coping - with respect to how women react to economic, emotional, physical and sexual intimate partner violence. While the choice of coping methods remains a complex issue, most women employed engagement strategies as a response to economic violence and disengagement coping for sexual violence. We explore the implications of gender and societal roles for coping decisions and analyse how access to resources may provide women with the tools to limit future violence.
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Culture, Health & Sexuality
An International Journal for Research, Intervention and Care
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Coping responses to intimate partner violence:
narratives of women in North-west Tanzania
Annapoorna Dwarumpudi, Gerry Mshana, Diana Aloyce, Esther Peter, Zaina
Mchome, Donati Malibwa, Saidi Kapiga & Heidi Stöckl
To cite this article: Annapoorna Dwarumpudi, Gerry Mshana, Diana Aloyce, Esther Peter, Zaina
Mchome, Donati Malibwa, Saidi Kapiga & Heidi Stöckl (2022): Coping responses to intimate
partner violence: narratives of women in North-west Tanzania, Culture, Health & Sexuality, DOI:
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© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa
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Published online: 04 Mar 2022.
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Coping responses to intimate partner violence: narratives
of women in North-west Tanzania
Annapoorna Dwarumpudi
, Gerry Mshana
, Diana Aloyce
, Esther
, Zaina Mchome
, Donati Malibwa
, Saidi Kapiga
Heidi St
Gender Violence and Health Centre, Department of Global Health and Development, London
School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK;
Mwanza Intervention Trials Unit, Mwanza,
National Institute for Medical Research, Mwanza Centre, Mwanza, Tanzania;
of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK;
Institute for Medical Information Processing, Biometry and Epidemiology (IBE), Ludwig-Maximilians-
at M
unchen, Munich, Germany
This study sought to explore the variety of coping strategies that
women employ in response to intimate partner violence. Coping
strategies can help women tolerate, minimise and deal with diffi-
cult challenges or conflicts in their relationships, such as learning
to be independent from their husbands and surviving trauma.
Drawing on 18 in-depth interviews conducted in Mwanza,
Tanzania, we examined two different coping strategies engage-
ment and disengagement coping with respect to how women
react to economic, emotional, physical and sexual intimate part-
ner violence. While the choice of coping methods remains a com-
plex issue, most women employed engagement strategies as a
response to economic violence and disengagement coping for
sexual violence. We explore the implications of gender and soci-
etal roles for coping decisions and analyse how access to resour-
ces may provide women with the tools to limit future violence.
Received 14 March 2021
Accepted 12 February 2022
Intimate partner violence;
coping; Tanzania
Intimate partner violence is a pervasive global public health and human rights issue,
with one in four women globally experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by a
partner during their lifetime (World Health Organization 2021). A 2021 study reported
that about 25% of women in sub-Saharan African countries reported intimate partner
violence, with a higher prevalence in rural areas with lower education and lower
access to economic resources (Wado et al. 2021). In Tanzania specifically, the lifetime
prevalence of physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence was reported to be
44% in 2015 (DHS 2016). The consequences of intimate partner violence, regardless of
ß2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives
License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in
any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
whether it is defined solely as physical and/or sexual or also includes economic and
psychological intimate partner violence, drastically affect womens mental and physical
health, their participation in social and economic activity, and the wellbeing of their
children (World Health Organization 2021).
To design and implement effective interventions, it is important to understand how
women respond to intimate partner violence. Previous literature has distinguished two
main forms of coping with intimate partner violence: engagement and disengagement
coping (Tobin et al. 1989). Women may utilise engagement strategies to change the
abusers behaviour as well as shift the balance of power and maintain agency (Iverson
et al. 2013). Engagement strategies include help-seeking, active opposition, leaving,
covert resistance and violence (Tobin et al. 1989). Covert resistance also includes
women setting limits with their perpetrators, for example through discussion, and uti-
lising their support network. Disengagement coping is often described in terms of pas-
sive reaction patterns, palliative reactions and avoidance (Compas et al. 2001).
Disengagement strategies are usually passive attempts to avoid violence such as
remaining quiet or ignoring the situation while engagement strategies actively address
the violence and disrupt relations (Taft et al. 2007). Disengagement coping has been
associated with higher rates of depression and a lower sense of control, while engage-
ment strategies are associated with lower levels of victimisation and better mental
health outcomes (Tobin et al. 1989). Discerning the use of coping strategies is critical
to creating programmes and interventions and mitigating the health consequences of
intimate partner violence (Waldrop and Resick 2004).
Social Norms Theory, the Theory of Gender and Power and Empowerment Theory
can be useful in understanding the reasons why women choose disengagement or
engagement strategies when dealing with intimate partner violence. Social norms the-
ory explains why social expectations exert a strong influence on how individuals
behave (Perrin et al. 2019). Individuals comply with social norms for group belonging
and outcome expectations, anticipating rewards and punishments when choosing to
obey social rules (McDonald and Crandall 2015; Lilleston et al. 2017). Therefore, social
norms may inform the use of disengagement behaviours to remain compliant with
traditional power structures and prevent further violence.
According to Connells theory of gender and power, the internalisation of gender
norms takes place through socialisation (Wingood and DiClemente 2000). Connells
theory identified three distinct structures that characterise gendered relationships: (a)
the sexual division of labour (economic inequalities); (b) the sexual division of power
(imbalances in control) and (c) the structure of cathexis (social norms). Together, these
three interlinked structures help understand the gender-based expectations that lead
to intimate partner violence and the constraints women face to opposing their partner
(Maharaj 1995), particularly in a context where gender inequality and intimate partner
violence against women in Tanzania involves male dominance, traditional gender
roles, and access to economic resources (Gashaw et al. 2019).
Empowerment theory emphasises how despite intimate partner violence being a
complex social issue, women will make independent decisions when they are provided
sufficient support and opportunities to do so. Women in Tanzania are gaining higher
levels of education and economic opportunities, moving away from traditional social
and gender constraints, giving them more social power to navigate inequalities and
strategically oppose violence from their partners (Fox 2016; Larsen and Hollos 2003).
While literature from the USA and Australia has outlined various coping strategies in
relation to intimate partner violence, there are few studies that have directly investigated
differences in coping strategies for the four forms of violence within an Eastern African
context (Tarzia 2021). Previous research on intimate partner violence in Tanzania has
largely focused on understanding the prevalence of violence, manifestations of violence,
and the pathways leading to abuse (Mahenge and St
ockl 2021). Furthermore, they stress
the importance of help-seeking from official institutions (Palermo, Bleck, and Peterman
2014). These studies, however, do not explain how women navigate different forms of
violence from their partners and the gender inequalities that impact coping decisions.
This study therefore aimed to understand the utilisation of disengagement and engage-
ment strategies across different forms of intimate partner violence.
Study setting
The study took place in Mwanza, Tanzanias second largest city. Mwanza is a major
business and commercial trade hub for neighbouring countries and the Lake Victoria
region (DHS 16). In 2015, according to the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS),
30% of women in Mwanza had no formal education, 46% had completed primary and
23% had higher education, and 67% were currently employed (DHS 2016). The main
source of employment for women in Mwanza was in agriculture (52%), followed by
unskilled manual work (23%) (DHS 2016).
Levels of intimate partner violence are high in Mwanza, with about 61% of women
reporting ever experiencing physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence and 34%
reporting economic abuse during the past 12 months (Kapiga et al. 2017). The largest
ethnic group in Mwanza are Sukuma people, yet inhabitants of Mwanza come from
many different ethnic groups across the country due to its strategic location as an
economic hub. As in other parts of Tanzania, patriarchy is common, with clear gender
expectations for mens and womens roles. Intimate relationships formed in this con-
text thereby confer more power and authority to men (Wight et al. 2006). Intimate
partner violence is still perceived to be a private issue in Tanzania, with only half of
the women who reported physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in the DHS
seeking help from anyone, with most of them only seeking assistance from their fami-
lies and only very few involving official services (Mahenge et al. 2020).
The study was conducted between May and July 2019 in Mwanza. The study was
part of the MAISHA longitudinal study a mixed-method cohort study investigating
predictors and consequences of intimate partner violence in Tanzania building on the
MAISHA trials (Kapiga et al. 2019). As can be seen in Table 1, 18 women aged 2757
were randomly sampled from 85 women who reported changes in their experiences
of sexual intimate partner violence, defined as being forced to have sex against their
will, between the baseline and endline survey of the MAISHA trial (Kapiga et al. 2019).
The interviewers called the women to seek consent to participate in this additional
qualitative study and scheduled appointments with those who consented. The women
in this study have been residents of Mwanza for at least two years and were fluent in
Swahili, the language of the interviews.
The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the London School of Hygiene
and Tropical Medicine in the UK; the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich in Germany;
and the National Institute of Medical Research Ethics Committee in Tanzania.
Data collection
Two trained Tanzanian female interviewers conducted the interviews the preferred
language of participants. Interviewers received training on issues specific to this study
including ethical issues related to qualitative research and intimate partner violence.
The Principal Investigator (HS), with extensive knowledge and expertise on intimate
partner violence research, developed the first draft of the topic guide, informed by dis-
cussion with the study team and preliminary quantitative findings from the MAISHA
endline survey. The topic guide was revised based on expert input and field-tests and
adapted after the first interviews. Data saturation was ascertained by reviewing the
data and fieldwork notes on a daily basis and was reached when the interviews did
not reveal new information.
The interview guide itself (see online supplemental file 1) initiated a broad conver-
sation on how women would portray their perfect relationship to discuss behaviours
they like or do not appreciate in their partner. If women did not start conversations
about the different forms of violence themselves, they were introduced by questions
such as: Does your partner want to have sex when you do not? What do you do? In a
later section, participants were also queried what they considered to be economic,
psychological and sexual abuse and asked to relate this to their own experience.
Interviewers also asked specific questions to explore behaviours and actions in
response to intimate partner violence and explored narratives surrounding coping.
Interviews lasted between 6090 min, were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and
translated into English. They were conducted at a place and time of the participants
choice such as their homes and at restaurants that was sufficiently private to ensure
Table 1. Socio-demographic profile of women interviewed.
Participant ID Age Marital status #Children 18 Level of education Occupation Religion
Mary 43 Married 4 Form 4 Tailor Christian
Zaina 45 Married 5 Std 7 Farmer Christian
Linda 44 Married 2 Form 4 Farmer Christian
Neema 48 Widow 3 Std 2 Florist Muslim
Eliza 43 Married 1 Form 2 Unemployed Muslim
Christina 32 Divorced 2 Std 7 Unemployed Christian
Sarah 37 Married 3 Std 7 Entrepreneur Christian
Grace 27 Single 1 Diploma Entrepreneur Christian
Tabitha 45 Married 1 Std 7 Entrepreneur Christian
Destiny 37 Divorced 4 Std 2 Unemployed Christian
Esther 45 Married none Std 7 Entrepreneur Christian
Ana 30 Married 2 Std 7 Entrepreneur Christian
Faith 57 Married 1 Std 7 Entrepreneur Christian
Diana 36 Divorce 3 Diploma Hotelier Christian
Melissa 43 Married 2 Std 7 Entrepreneur Christian
Anna 41 Married 2 Std 7 Entrepreneur Muslim
Laura 49 Married 1 Std 7 Unemployed Christian
Agnes 43 Married 2 Std 7 Entrepreneur Muslim
that others could not overhear the conversations. The interviewer also paused the
audio recording and changed the topic when privacy was a concern and ensured the
comfort and privacy of the woman before continuing the discussion. Full information
about the study was provided to participants verbally, and written consent obtained.
Participants were reimbursed a total of 8,000 T-shillings (about 3.4 USD) after partici-
pating in each interview. After the interviews, all participants were provided with refer-
ral options for intimate partner violence services if needed.
Data analysis
Personal identifiers from the interview transcripts were removed prior to data analysis.
Data analysis was undertaken in multiple stages. First, DM and EP, who also conducted
the interviews, read half of the transcripts line by line to identify key topics and pat-
terns that were discussed and refined together with by GM, ZM, DM, and HS into a
codebook. Second, for the planned analysis of coping with intimate partner violence,
AD read and re-read all translated manuscripts and subsequently developed codes on
womens coping based on what emerged from the interview data. After immersing
herself in the literature, AD investigated in how far the concepts of the chosen theo-
ries and literature aligned with her initial codes and in how far they went beyond. AD
also cross-checked her codes with those of the codebook and combined them if pos-
sible. Third, AD and the team identified patterns and relationships between the codes
and synthesised the main themes and chose corresponding quotes until consensus
was reached in multiple meetings. Participants were provided with a pseudonym to
protect their identity and quotes were derived from interview responses.
Women in this study reported multiple accounts of violence in their relationships,
including experiencing the co-occurrence of various forms of violence. While physical
violence was the least often reported, sexual, economic, and emotional forms of vio-
lence were common experiences. All participants reported a variety of coping strat-
egies to intimate partner violence that can be classified as either engagement or
disengagement strategies, with disengagement strategies, help-seeking and active
opposition being the most commonly chosen ones (Figure 1).
Coping strategies in response to economic intimate partner violence
Active opposition and help-seeking were the two forms of engagement strategies
most used for economic intimate partner violence. The women in this study displayed
active opposition to economic violence by verbally standing up to their partners and
communicating their frustration to actively address the violence. Reported help seek-
ing behaviours included out to family members or close friends for advice, resources
or interventions. For example, one participant, Zaina (45, farmer) described how she
relied on family members to address economic abuse from her partner who would
steal money meant for their childrens needs to buy alcohol.
I used to share with my elders when the abuse got too much. For example, I used to tell
my mom, but before, I would tell the woman who owns the house that I had rented. I
would tell her that I did not like my husbands behaviour around money. She would try
to call him and talk to him about his behaviour. He would accept but then he repeats
after a few days. Zaina, 45, farmer
Active opposition and help-seeking were not only used in response to economic vio-
lence when the partner stole their money, but also when he did not support the children
or pay loans. In this sample, women who commonly opposed their husbands usually
also had their own business, had finished primary education, and had children to sup-
port, alluding to the crucial impact of economic empowerment, education and maternal
responsibility on womens responses to intimate partner violence. Women also reported
a reduction in economic intimate partner violence because of active opposition.
I told him, I do not want to borrow other peoples money for you anymore. You do not
help with payments. Dont you see that you are abusing me economically To the
extent that I am stressed all the timeNow, he doesnt ask me to take loans under my
name for him. - Neema, 48, Florist
Figure 1. Outline of coping patterns across four types of violence.
Women commonly used engagement strategies to protect against economic vio-
lence, yet some remained quiet and played a passive reactionary role due to a per-
ceived lack of control or fear of punishment. When her previous partner did not
financially provide for the family, a participant, Destiny decided to seek an independ-
ent income source to pay for her childrens needs instead of confronting her partner.
When I asked where he spent the night, he would tell me that it is none of my business.
I decided to stop asking him for anything and let him decide himself whether to leave us
with money or not So I was providing for myself. I didnt depend on a mans income. I
used to do casual works like laundry for money. Destiny, 37, Unemployed
Coping strategies in response to emotional intimate partner violence
As seen in economic intimate partner violence, engagement strategies such as active
opposition and help-seeking were also commonly used in response to emotional
intimate partner violence, with women actively confronting their partners verbally or
utilising informal support systems to demand a change in emotional abuse.
Women were keen to have a positive reputation and therefore expressed feelings
of humiliation and anger when arguments with their partner happened in a public set-
ting, revealing abuse to the community. As a result, women were more likely to
actively confront their husband if he emotionally abused them in public.
However, disengagement or avoidance were also prevalent in responses to emo-
tional violence. Women stated that they were afraid that resisting emotional violence
would provoke argument and intensify emotional intimate partner violence or lead to
other forms of intimate partner violence. They claimed that it was not beneficial to
resist their partners. If they remained quiet and not engaged, their partners would
likely realise their abusive actions.
He used to beat me when I asked him where he had spent the night. I got used to the
situation. So, when he was home, I did not say anything because doing so resulted in
fights. Our communication was not like a real one. It was full of fear. Tabitha, 45,
Other women also described how they remained quiet to express their anger and
frustration towards their partners. Another participant, Christina revealed that when
she got angry at her husband, she would stay quiet to provoke a response, thereby
forcing him to acknowledge his actions.
I become furious and quiet. When I become quiet, he will recognize his mistake and from
there we will have to sit together and discuss where he went wrong, and after that he
will end up making an apology. Christina, 32, Unemployed
Coping strategies in response to physical intimate partner violence
Despite not being mentioned as frequently as economic, emotional and sexual intim-
ate partner violence, women who experienced physical intimate partner violence also
reported actively resisting through their own acts of violence. This did not occur very
often, because women feared that this decision would result in escalated abuse and
incite more arguments. For example, Ana (30, entrepreneur) reported that she had hit
her husband back after he had poured water on her in public, but in hindsight, she
considered this engagement strategy unsuccessful as it resulted in an increase in phys-
ical violence.
Coping strategies in response to sexual intimate partner violence
Active opposition was not commonly observed in sexual intimate partner violence.
Cases of sexual assault were viewed as shameful, and women usually kept these expe-
riences secret from family and friends to prevent further humiliation. Most of the
women in the sample reported having sex with their husbands when they did not
want to. For example, Sarah also stated that while she did not want to have sex, she
felt like it was her duty as a wife to yield and allow pleasure to her husband.
As a wife, you just give him what he wants just for the sake of it even though you have
already informed him that you are not in the mood. Since he keeps complaining, you just
let him have his way. Sarah, 37, Entrepreneur
While most women chose to play an inactive role during sexual intimate partner
violence, some reported informal help-seeking in which they solely sought out emo-
tional support from family and friends rather than active ways to cope or stop the sex-
ual violence.
After a long time, I told my friend about the rape. She advised me and told me that this
is the way it is always done. When men have sex with first-time ladies (virgins), they
usually use force. Christina, 32, Unemployed
When sexual intimate partner violence occurred, women remained silent and did
not actively oppose their partner to keep the peace in the relationship. Even women
who actively opposed their partner when economic or emotional intimate partner vio-
lence occurred tended to play a passive role in their reaction to sexual intimate part-
ner violence. For example, Esther (45, entrepreneur) who actively confronted her
husband when he borrowed her money had a passive reaction to all the experiences
of sexual intimate partner violence she described, sexual intimate partner violence
being regarded as a normal part of marriage.
Barriers to leaving abusive relationships
Leaving the partner was a strategy that three women used to address recurring and
severe forms of violence. Other women chose alternative ways to distance themselves
from their partners, for example by living in separate rooms or houses while being
married instead of seeking a legal separation. Another participant, Neema, who
wanted to get a divorce decided instead to live with her parents for a short period
due to the intimidation and fear she experienced from her partner.
When I told him I wanted to formally separate, he called me and told me that I was a
fool and that he will slaughter me and leave. I could not live in peace I stayed with my
parents for a month and came back.”–Neema, 48, Florist
The women in our sample who chose to leave or informally separate from their
husbands were younger, had higher educational levels, and social and financial sup-
port. Agnes, who experienced emotional intimate partner violence felt able to leave
her husband due to her independent financial means, demonstrating how economic
resources and family support can help in choosing engagement strategies.
When I found out that he was using that same money to get other women and have
affairs, it really hurt me so much, and I was very angry. I then decided to leave him and
left. I told him that this is my money and property from my sweat and God blessed my
efforts. I was also given capital from my father. Agnes, 43, Entrepreneur
Earlier in the relationship, this same participant also faced economic and emotional
violence from the same partner and chose to stay in the relationship at that time
point due to discouragement from the family and concern for her children. Agness
initial reluctance to leave her partner suggests that repeated accounts of violence can
have a compounding effect and that women may encounter have a critical threshold
or turning point at which they shift towards choosing engagement strategies.
A considerable number of women had considered leaving their partners but were
discouraged to do so because of the negative effect this would have on their children,
economic dependence, and concerns about their partners reaction. Women worried
that if they get divorced, they might not find another partner due to social censure.
The moment you get divorced and get married to another man, people tell that you are
a whore. You are regarded as an immoral person. Woman, 43, Unemployed
Women who did not leave their partner relied on disengagement strategies,
reported lower self-esteem, and chose more harmful coping mechanisms. Due to the
abuse they experienced some reported looking for love elsewhere by engaging in
extramarital affairs or partaking in alcohol use.
That (violence) is what made me get into another relationship. It was like a way to find
comfort, which is how I found myself into that (extra-marital relationship) Tabitha, 45,
In contrast, Grace (27, Entrepreneur), the youngest woman in the study with one
child, had left her husband, and was seeking an educational diploma. She also had
the support of her family and was able to move in with her parents. Her networks
and background were crucial in her decision to leave her marriage.
Barriers to help-seeking and disclosure
Help-seeking is a broad form of resistance in which women seek help from either formal
or informal networks to help reduce or address intimate partner violence. Help-seeking
was a strategy that women in this study used across the different forms of violence.
However, participants rarely described reaching out to law enforcement and health-
care professionals. Most depended on informal channels such as family members,
friends, religious figures, and street leaders to speak to their partner, obtain advice
and receive emotional support. Women stated that family and friends they asked for
advice would tell them to be patient with their husbands, suggesting the limited effi-
cacy of informal help-seeking.
I used to tell them, the women mostly, if his behaviour becomes excessive, I tell them, he
does this and this and I dont like it. They just advise me to be patient, they tell me to be
patient. Lisa, 37, Unemployed
While many women were willing to seek help from informal networks, a minority
remained unwilling to share their violent experiences with anyone, including close rel-
atives and friends. These women shared the perception that matters of abuse should
stay within the private and confidential sphere of the relationship. They believed that
disclosure or help-seeking was not constructive and that conflict within the marriage
should be resolved with the partner privately instead.
Whether we have gone out or whether we have argued we act as if nothing has
happened when somebody visits. You can resume your brawl when she leaves because if
you share your experience with her, she may in turn share that with her loved one. You
will be humiliated further if you share with someone that you have been beaten or
you have had your clothes torn from you. Melissa, 43, Entrepreneur
Women who declined help-seeking services also showed an underlying fear that
rumour would spread in the community, damaging their social reputation. Women
reported fear of punishment from their partners if they revealed abuse to outsiders.
The perceived shame, social backlash, and the wish to retain privacy were reasons
why women behaved in this way.
Some conversations signal violence. For example, my partner may talk harshly to me
alone or in the presence of our children. That is humiliation or violence directed to me.
The next day, my child may ask me, why did dad say one two three to you?Its
one of the things I hate in my life. Why cant he wait until we are alone just the two of
us instead of arguing over a phone while other people are listening on. Thats abusing or
violating your partner. Abuse has many faces See? Faith, 57, Entrepreneur
Additionally, in this study community, discussing sex is perceived to be taboo.
Thus, women reported discomfort in discussing sexually violent behaviours.
These experiences (sounding sad). When you sit with most women experiencing sexual
violence you will find that it is hard to disclose about what someone is going through.
Only confident women will discuss this matter with you. Thats why a person who has
confided in you will tell you that you are one of her closest people. Mary, 43, Tailor
This study found that women use a variety of coping strategies to deal with physical,
sexual, emotional and economic intimate partner violence. While women utilised a
mix of engagement and disengagement strategies for emotional and physical intimate
partner violence, women primarily relied on engagement strategies for economic
intimate partner violence and primarily resorted to disengagement strategies to cope
with sexual intimate partner violence.
Women in this study were generally reluctant to disclose intimate partner violence
or to actively seek help, in particular those who experienced sexual violence, an atti-
tude that continues to be commonplace throughout sub-Saharan Africa. In a study in
Nigeria, over 50% of women reported that they would not disclose violence, and
among the women who were willing to do so, about 70% would choose to report
only to close relatives not formal institutions (Okenwa, Lawoko and Jansson 2009).
Figure 2 outlines how the different theories used in our analysis help explain wom-
ens choice of coping strategies. Womens tolerance of intimate partner violence and
conformity to dominant understandings of gender roles and relationships are likely to
be an expression of their experiences and expectations as well as a reflection of pre-
vailing social norms (McCleary-Sills et al. 2016). At the individual level, our study, as
well as existing evidence suggests that a womans willingness to disclose abuse or
seek help is influenced by her level of adherence to gender roles, decision-making
autonomy, social empowerment, and perceptions of available social services
(Sardaryan 2017). As suggested by social norms theory, community values that pro-
mote violence, financial dependence and social discrimination impede womens deci-
sion to disclose violence (Liang et al. 2005). An in-depth qualitative study in Mwanza,
Tanzania showed that women may agree to have sex with their husbands even
though they are not in the mood, given that sex in marriage is framed as a mans
right (Mchome et al 2020). These barriers to help-seeking illustrate how female agency
is restricted by social norms and systems that are not responsive to their needs. In
Tanzania, for example, there is a pressing shortage of primary care physicians who can
identify victims of intimate partner violence and offer culturally sensitive and appropri-
ate services for coping (Dienye, Gbeneol, and Itimi 2014).
In line with the Theory of Gender and Power, women in this study described how
inequitable societal gender role prescriptions and socialisation contributed to the
acceptance of intimate partner violence in communities that made it difficult for them
to gain support against intimate partner violence (Nyamhanga and Frumence 2014). In
a study in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, young women described their role as one of serv-
ing their partners sexual needs and identified the ideal woman as home-bound, set-
tled, submissive and forgiving (Lary et al. 2004). This cultural norm and associated
Figure 2. Developing theoretical framework to understanding womens decision pathways to cope
with intimate partner violence.
power differential limits womens ability to negotiate the terms of their sexual relation-
ships and constructively react to sexual violence specifically (Krishnan et al. 2012).
In this study, empowerment theory was useful in explaining why some women in
the study were able to choose engagement strategies typically, the individuals con-
cerned had more economic and social resources at their disposal, an important factor
in influencing womens decision to speak up or leave their abusive partner (De Serpa
Pimentel et al. 2021).
There were various turning points such as extramarital affairs, financial struggles
and recurring abuse, which caused women in this study to choose engagement strat-
egies or oppose their husbands. Previous research has documented how shifts in
beliefs and perceptions of themselves, their partners and their situation can motivate
women to consider active change (Chang et al. 2006). Rapid and profound social
changes are affecting families in Tanzania, as elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Women
are gaining higher levels of education and increasingly contributing materially to the
household (George 2020; Okkolin, Lehtom
aki, and Bhalalusesa 2010). As empowerment
theory suggests, access to financial resources allows women to make strategic choices
concerning their lives, improving their status in the household and community (Idris
2018). With increased decision-making capacity and higher self-esteem, women may
be more likely to resist economic violence since this action threatens their newly
earned status, income and self-perception (Huis et al. 2017).
Studies have also shown that education enlightens women about their options and
empowers them to challenge gendered norms that normalise violence as it has been
found in our study. Women with more education, and hence more career options, may
be less likely to be abused because they are perceived as more valuable by their hus-
bands; they also may have more power to leave a relationship should their husband
become abusive. A study in Mwanza, Tanzania has highlighted how the prevalence of
violence decreased with increasing level of education for women (Kapiga et al. 2017). As
womens participation in the domestic economy in East Africa increases, investments in
womens education and the inclusion of men in intimate partner violence programmes
and interventions could interrupt the cycle of violence in Tanzania.
This study has certain limitations. Firstly, women in the study were recruited from a
longitudinal qualitative study, yet we only interviewed them twice, basing this analysis
on the first interviews where how women coped with intimate partner violence was
one of the aims of the study. In addition, interviews were conducted only with mar-
ried women in a heterosexual relationship. It is possible that perspectives may have
differed if unmarried women in a relationship had been included. Secondly, even
though our sample relied on an ethnically diverse group and reports of intimate part-
ner violence aligned with other studies conducted in Tanzania (DHS 2016), we would
have liked to sample a more diverse group including young women and women
growing up outside Mwanza. Thirdly, the research assistants conducting the interviews
for this study were younger than participants, which may have influenced what the
older women said. Fourthly, due to stigma and normative expectations, women may
also have been reluctant to disclose experiences of intimate partner violence, espe-
cially sexual violence, and their responses to it.
Previous studies investigated intimate partner violence coping mechanisms do not
generally differentiate between different forms of intimate partner violence or consider
the socio-cultural context that may be applicable to women in North-west Tanzania
(Mahenge and St
ockl 2021; Palermo et al. 2014) This study identified that capturing
the varied experiences of women and differentiating between multiple forms of vio-
lence women experience is necessary to understand how women cope with intimate
partner violence and develop appropriate policies, programmes and interventions. The
notable lack of formal help-seeking in our study suggests that services are either not
widely available, or women do not trust formal systems. Community street leaders
and members should be supported to act as allies for women, addressing the social
norms that normalise violence and perpetuate negative ideas about masculinity.
Ultimately, study findings signal the need for interventions that address the individual,
interpersonal, and community level determinants of intimate partner violence, includ-
ing socio-cultural attitudes concerning gender inequity and economic empowerment.
We are grateful to the study participants and local community leaders in Tanzania who contrib-
uted to the research. We thank the study team for their support with data collection
and management.
Disclosure statement
The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.
The research was funded by the ERC Starting Grant IPV_Tanzania (716458).
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This article explores if and how young unmarried Indian female victim-survivors of sexual violence in an intimate relationship reclaim sexual well-being within a context of systemic impunity with structural and intersectional gender inequalities. While legal and societal structures need reform, we seek to understand how victim-survivors use their personal agency to move forward, forge new relationships and lead a fulfilling sexual life. We utilised analytic autoethnography research methods to understand these issues since they allowed us to include personal reflections and recognise the authors' as well as study participants' positionality. Findings highlight the importance of close female friendships combined with access to therapy to recognise and (re)frame experiences of sexual violence within an intimate relationship. None of the victim-survivors reported sexual violence to law enforcement. They struggled in the aftermath of their relationships but also used their close personal and therapeutic networks to understand how to build more satisfying intimate relations. In three cases, this involved meeting with the ex-partner to discuss the abuse. Our findings raise important questions about gender, class, friendship, social support, power and taking legal action in reclaiming sexual pleasure and rights.
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Introduction Economic abuse is a form of intimate partner violence that still lacks a clear conceptualization and therefore is often overlooked next to physical, sexual and psychological abuse. While existing categorizations recognize economic intimate partner violence as economic control, economic exploitation and employment sabotage, current measurements of economic abuse rarely capture all its forms, and the issue has not been widely explored in low- and middle-income country settings. Methods We conducted in-depth interviews with 18 women in Mwanza, Tanzania to understand local perceptions and experiences of economic intimate partner violence. We used a thematic analysis approach. Results Our study illustrates the complexity of economic abuse as a unique form of intimate partner violence, with women experiencing economic exploitation, employment sabotage, economic control and male economic irresponsibility. Gender norms and expectations actively played a key role in furthering abusive economic behaviour as women attempted to generate their own income and participate in financial decisions. Women’s constructs and reactions to economic abuse diverged sharply from the traditional marital expectations of dutifully accepting male control and the men being the main breadwinners in the family. Despite it being widespread, women did not find economic abuse acceptable. Conclusion The results highlight that economic abuse is a complex issue and that more research on the pathways and manifestations of economic abuse globally would be beneficial. Existing measurement tools should be widened to address all dimensions of economic abuse. Addressing economic abuse will require multi-strategy interventions, working at the individual and community-level to address gender roles and masculinity norms, working with both men and women.
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Background Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a global public health and human rights issue that affects millions of women and girls. While disaggregated national statistics are crucial to assess inequalities, little evidence exists on inequalities in exposure to violence against adolescents and young women (AYW). The aim of this study was to determine inequalities in physical or sexual IPV against AYW and beliefs about gender based violence (GBV) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Methods We used data from the most recent Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) conducted in 27 countries in SSA. Only data from surveys conducted after 2010 were included. Our analysis focused on married or cohabiting AYW aged 15–24 years and compared inequalities in physical or sexual IPV by place of residence, education and wealth. We also examined IPV variations by AYW’s beliefs about GBV and the association of country characteristics such as gender inequality with IPV prevalence. Results The proportion of AYW reporting IPV in the year before the survey ranged from 6.5% in Comoros to 43.3% in Gabon, with a median of 25.2%. Overall, reported IPV levels were higher in countries in the Central Africa region than other sub-regions. Although the prevalence of IPV varied by place of residence, education and wealth, there was no clear pattern of inequalities. In many countries with high prevalence of IPV, a higher proportion of AYW from rural areas, with lower education and from the poorest wealth quintile reported IPV. In almost all countries, a greater proportion of AYW who approved wife beating for any reason reported IPV compared to their counterparts who disapproved wife beating. Reporting of IPV was weakly correlated with the Gender Inequality Index and other societal level variables but was moderately positively correlated with adult alcohol consumption (r = 0.48) and negative attitudes towards GBV (r = 0.38). Conclusion IPV is pervasive among AYW, with substantial variation across and within countries reflecting the role of contextual and structural factors in shaping the vulnerability to IPV. The lack of consistent patterns of inequalities by the stratifiers within countries shows that IPV against women and girls cuts across socio-economic boundaries suggesting the need for comprehensive and multi-sectoral approaches to preventing and responding to IPV.
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Intimate partner sexual violence (IPSV) is a common yet hidden form of violence against women. It encompasses a range of behaviors, including rape and sexual assault, and also more subtle behaviors such as the use of coercion and blackmail to obtain sex. It is typically described as an aspect of intimate partner violence, yet, although it often co-occurs with physical or psychological abuse, the contextual factors and nuances of sexual violence perpetrated by an intimate partner are likely to be very different. IPSV also differs greatly from sexual assault perpetrated by a stranger or other known person. Despite this, ecological theories and models developed to help understand and prevent violence against women have neglected or excluded IPSV. This is problematic given the serious mental and physical health problems consistently associated with it. In response, this article aims to explore the ecological factors that may be associated with IPSV at the individual, relationship, community, and societal levels. It draws on both inductive and deductive thematic analysis of N = 38 in-depth, unstructured interviews with women victim/survivors. Individual-level factors included sexual inexperience and past trauma (for victims), and fragile masculinity and a sense of entitlement to sex (for perpetrators). Relationship-level factors included a large age gap in the relationship and co-occurring psychological abuse. Community-level factors were identified as failure to talk about sex, isolation, and lack of support, while societal-level factors included the idea that sex is a woman’s duty in a relationship, and that “real rape” is perpetrated by strangers. These factors are incorporated into a proposed ecological model that is unique to IPSV, furthering our understanding of this complex problem and its areas of overlap and difference with intimate partner violence and sexual violence. With refinement and testing through large-scale quantitative studies, this model may be critical in guiding future prevention efforts.
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Intimate partner violence (IPV) in pregnancy adversely affects the health of women and unborn children. To prevent this, the community responses, societal systems, and structures to support victims of IPV in pregnancy are vital. Objectives: to explore community stakeholders' perspectives related to IPV in pregnancy in Jimma, Ethiopia, and if needed, create the knowledge base for interventions. Methods: using an exploratory design, this qualitative study had a maximum-variation (multiple spectrum sources) sampling strategy with 16 semi-structured interviews of purposively selected key informants representing different community institutions. Guided by Connell's theory of gender and power, a content analysis of the translated interviews was conducted using Atlas.ti 7 software. Results: reconciliation between IPV victims and their abusers was the solution promoted by almost all the respondents. There was limited awareness of the adverse impacts IPV in pregnancy has on the health of the woman and the foetus. Despite regular encounters with victims, there is no organized or structured operational response to support IPV victims between the participating institutions. Conclusion: the potential danger of IPV for the mother or the unborn child was not well understood by the members of the studied Ethiopian community. Neither coordinated efforts to support IPV victims nor links among relevant agencies existed. The study demonstrated the dire need of coordinated practical action, changes in current socio-cultural norms, formal training and capacity building, awareness creation, clear intervention guidelines, and facilitation of support networks among relevant institutions in Ethiopian communities.
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Background: Globally, about 30% of women have experienced physical or sexual violence, or both, from an intimate partner during their lifetime. Associations between poverty and women's increased risk of intimate partner violence have been observed. We therefore aimed to assess the effect of a violence prevention intervention delivered to women participating in a group-based microfinance scheme in Tanzania. Methods: We did a cluster randomised controlled trial among women taking part in a microfinance loan scheme in Mwanza city, Tanzania. A microfinance loan group was only enrolled if at least 70% of members consented. We randomly assigned the microfinance groups in blocks of six to receive either the intervention (ie, the intervention arm) or be wait-listed for the intervention after the trial (ie, the control arm). Women in both arms of the trial met weekly for loan repayments. Only those in the intervention arm participated in the ten-session MAISHA intervention that aims to empower women and prevent intimate partner violence. Given the nature of the intervention, it was not possible to mask participants or the research team. The primary outcome was a composite of reported past-year physical or sexual intimate partner violence, or both. Secondary outcome measures were past-year physical, sexual, and emotional intimate partner violence; acceptability and tolerance of intimate partner violence; and attitudes and beliefs related to intimate partner violence. These outcomes were assessed 24 months after the intervention. An intention-to-treat analysis was done, adjusting for age, education, and baseline measure of the respective outcome. The study is registered with, number NCT02592252. Findings: Between September, 2014, and June, 2015, 66 (65%) of 101 microfinance groups approached in the study area met the trial eligibility criteria and were enrolled, of which 33 (n=544 women) were allocated to the intervention arm and 33 (n=505 women) to the control arm. Overall, 485 (89%) of 544 women in the intervention arm and 434 (86%) of 505 in the control arm completed the outcomes assessment. Among the intervention arm, 112 (23%) of 485 women reported past-year physical or sexual intimate partner violence, or both, compared with 119 (27%) of 434 in the control arm (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 0·69, 95% CI 0·47-1·01; p=0·056). Women in the intervention arm were less likely to report physical intimate partner violence (aOR 0·64, 95% CI 0·41-0·99; p=0·043) and were less likely to express attitudes accepting of intimate partner violence (0·45, 0·34-0·61; p<0·0001) or beliefs that intimate partner violence is a private matter (0·51, 0·32-0·81; p=0·005) or should be tolerated (0·68, 0·45-1·01; p=0·055). There was no evidence of an effect on reported sexual or emotional intimate partner violence. There were no reports that participation in the trial had led to new episodes of violence or worsening of ongoing violence and abuse. Interpretation: Reported physical or sexual intimate partner violence, or both, was reduced among women who participated in the intervention arm, although the effect was greater for physical intimate partner violence, suggesting that intimate partner violence is preventable in high-risk settings such as Tanzania. Funding: Anonymous donor and STRIVE Consortium.
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Background Gender-based violence (GBV) primary prevention programs seek to facilitate change by addressing the underlying causes and drivers of violence against women and girls at a population level. Social norms are contextually and socially derived collective expectations of appropriate behaviors. Harmful social norms that sustain GBV include women’s sexual purity, protecting family honor over women’s safety, and men’s authority to discipline women and children. To evaluate the impact of GBV prevention programs, our team sought to develop a brief, valid, and reliable measure to examine change over time in harmful social norms and personal beliefs that maintain and tolerate sexual violence and other forms of GBV against women and girls in low resource and complex humanitarian settings. Methods The development and testing of the scale was conducted in two phases: 1) formative phase of qualitative inquiry to identify social norms and personal beliefs that sustain and justify GBV perpetration against women and girls; and 2) testing phase using quantitative methods to conduct a psychometric evaluation of the new scale in targeted areas of Somalia and South Sudan. Results The Social Norms and Beliefs about GBV Scale was administered to 602 randomly selected men (N = 301) and women (N = 301) community members age 15 years and older across Mogadishu, Somalia and Yei and Warrup, South Sudan. The psychometric properties of the 30-item scale are strong. Each of the three subscales, “Response to Sexual Violence,” “Protecting Family Honor,” and “Husband’s Right to Use Violence” within the two domains, personal beliefs and injunctive social norms, illustrate good factor structure, acceptable internal consistency, reliability, and are supported by the significance of the hypothesized group differences. Conclusions We encourage and recommend that researchers and practitioners apply the Social Norms and Beliefs about GBV Scale in different humanitarian and global LMIC settings and collect parallel data on a range of GBV outcomes. This will allow us to further validate the scale by triangulating its findings with GBV experiences and perpetration and assess its generalizability across diverse settings. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (10.1186/s13031-019-0189-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
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p>Women's empowerment is an important goal in achieving sustainable development worldwide. Offering access to microfinance services to women is one way to increase women's empowerment. However, empirical evidence provides mixed results with respect to its effectiveness. We reviewed previous research on the impact of microfinance services on different aspects of women's empowerment. We propose a Three-Dimensional Model of Women's Empowerment to integrate previous findings and to gain a deeper understanding of women's empowerment in the field of microfinance services. This model proposes that women's empowerment can take place on three distinct dimensions: (1) the micro-level, referring to an individuals' personal beliefs as well as actions, where personal empowerment can be observed (2) the meso-level, referring to beliefs as well as actions in relation to relevant others, where relational empowerment can be observed and (3) the macro-level, referring to outcomes in the broader, societal context where societal empowerment can be observed. Importantly, we propose that time and culture are important factors that influence women's empowerment. We suggest that the time lag between an intervention and its evaluation may influence when empowerment effects on the different dimensions occur and that the type of intervention influences the sequence in which the three dimensions can be observed. We suggest that cultures may differ with respect to which components of empowerment are considered indicators of empowerment and how women's position in society may influence the development of women's empowerment. We propose that a Three-Dimensional Model of Women's Empowerment should guide future programs in designing, implementing, and evaluating their interventions. As such our analysis offers two main practical implications. First, based on the model we suggest that future research should differentiate between the three dimensions of women's empowerment to increase our understanding of women's empowerment and to facilitate comparisons of results across studies and cultures. Second, we suggest that program designers should specify how an intervention should stimulate which dimension(s) of women's empowerment. We hope that this model inspires longitudinal and cross-cultural research to examine the development of women's empowerment on the personal, relational, and societal dimension.</p
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious global health problem affecting millions of women worldwide. Despite increased investments into its reduction, little research has been conducted into how women in low- and middle-income countries deal with IPV. This study seeks to explore this by looking in depth into help-seeking strategies utilized by abused women in Tanzania, using the 2015–2016 Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey. The prevalence of lifetime physical and/or sexual IPV was 41.6% in this study, but only half of all affected women sought help from anyone. The only clear association found with help-seeking was the severity of IPV.