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Restored’s theory of change for ending violence against women

“Social movements with a spiritual foundation are what finally change history. … The civil rights movement was that kind of movement. The abolitionist struggle… the first women’s suffrage movement… the Jubilee 2000 debt cancellation campaign ...” Jim Wallis[1]

1. Introduction

1.1 Violence against women was defined by the UN General Assembly in 1993:

“Violence against women" means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

For Restored, women include women and girls and we also recognise the spiritual dimensions of abuse.

1.2 Restored believes that it is not enough to desire an end to violence against women. We need to have an understanding of how change occurs, and what we can do to bring it about. This model focuses on violence against women and girls. It does not minimise or reject the experience of violence against men and boys, but we believe that different models are required for this, and that this is not the focus of Restored.

1.3 Each person needs to go on a personal journey of transformation of their knowledge, beliefs and behaviours, if they are to achieve lasting change. We distinguish between non-abusive men, perpetrators, all women and those who experience violence. We believe that change is most difficult for the perpetrator of violence who needs to choose a radical process of genuine repentance and reform if he is to achieve sustainable change. This includes recognition of wrongdoing, acceptance of responsibility, abhorrence of violence, turning away from all forms of abuse and being held accountable.

1.4 We also need to change the influences at work on individual people and on wider society, both in terms of positive incentives and negative deterrents. We believe that influence occurs at three different levels: national, community and individual. All people are influenced by factors at all three levels.

1.5 Our model then looks at interventions and programmes that can be undertaken to assist on the journey and strengthen the influences. We stress the importance of the environment, the nature of choices being made and the possibility of regression and of positive and negative feedback loops. We recognise the role of love, grace and the power of God in bringing about change.

1.6 The core of our model is the belief that there is no single influence that will end violence against women. We believe that a combination of interventions will have the maximum impact, and that, when these work together, the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts. Some of the factors, however, are clearly more important than others, and we need to continue our research in order to be able to prioritise these more effectively. In particular, we want to address how culture and context affect our understanding of human relationships. This includes the influence of the church and how it has interpreted the Bible with respect to the relationships between men, women and God.

2. Restored’s Model of change

2.1 We believe that violence against women occurs because men choose to be violent (they want to); and they do not face consequences (they can). Most public campaigns consist of advice to women to reduce the opportunities for violence. Women need to be empowered and survivors of violence need to be restored. Prevention, however, depends primarily on changing the attitudes and actions of non-abusive men and perpetrators.

2.2 The first part of Restored’s theory of change is therefore the individual journeys of men, as non-abusive men or as perpetrators as violence, and women. People will be influenced, or “nudged”, by a wide range of factors at the personal level to help them move along a journey towards non-violence.

Part 1: Individual journeys

2.3 The second part of the theory is the influences that act on individuals (women, non-abusive men and perpetrators), at the individual, community and national levels. These provide positive and negative incentives for change that range from information through to legislation and enforced restriction of actions. We also highlight the role of people movements such as Restored in bringing about such change

2.4 We believe men will change through changing their knowledge and attitudes and that this can be supported through positive encouragement of friends; restored relationships within their marriages, partnerships and families, and wider change within cultures, religions and nations. Prevention can also work through deterrence, and evidence suggests that people respond more strongly to negative incentives of accountability and facing consequences for their actions in their relationships and through the legal system, than to positive incentives.

Part 2: Factors that influence violence against women

2.5 The third part of the model looks at how interventions can strengthen the influences, and can assist men on a positive journey. This reflects the DFID structure for theories of change. We believe that change starts with God and that models must include a spiritual dimension that recognises the reality of sin and power of the Holy Spirit to bring about change. We also recognise that change is not a linear process and we need to be aware of feedback loops, setbacks and the potential for a backlash, including spiritually.

Part 3: Interventions to address VAW 

2.6 This structure looks at external interventions, but the interaction between the influences and the journey are complex. What causes a perpetrator to want to change and to have the commitment to embark on and sustain this journey? We believe that it is often a crisis that challenges a man’s beliefs about women and violence. We are particularly interested in three processes:

i)The role of conversion to Christian faith, based on repentance and faith and followed up by discipleship and transformation.

ii)A crisis induced by the breakdown of a relationship.

iii)A crisis induced by experiencing the consequences of violence such as a criminal conviction and/or loss of access to children

2.7 The fourth and final part of the model is about Restored. We believe that there are four keys to Restored’s effectiveness in bringing about change: having a clear vision, prayer and faith, working together with, and empowering, others through networking and advocacy; and communicating effectively, including documenting results. Restored, as a network and people movement, is able to influence change at all three levels in our model. We are also inspired to engage in programmes that will help men on a journey of change. The table below lists various activities that we might undertake:

Part 4: Possible interventions for Restored 

2.8 Key to the journey is the role of perpetrator programmes. For men who want to change there needs to be a challenging and supportive environment in which they can increase their knowledge. The process of change and the potential for developing a perpetrator programme within the Christian context are challenges that remain.

3. Conclusions and next steps

3.1 God has given a vision for Restored and He has provided for us. We are now seeking His wisdom to be as effective as possible in achieving our goal of seeing an end to violence against women. We believe that people movements can be catalytic to driving change at all levels of our change model. We believe that Restored is an organisation, a network but most of all a social movement with spiritual foundations that God will use to bring about change in this critical area.

3.2 The summary of our model is as follows

Strengthening incentives + Increasing deterrents + Helping people on a journey =>

Changes in culture + Reductions in violence against women

3.3 Further work is needed to document programmes that deliver change; including pilots of specific programmes developed by Restored and members of the alliance. We will be looking for evidence and data on successful change, including through perpetrator programmes. We will also seek to collect case studies of other examples of social change such as slavery; smoking; footbinding and drink-driving.