Addressing the elephant in the room

We know that violence against women exists. We know that discussions on this topic are pertinent across the world. We know that the issue of rights, dignity, and equality has given rise to the many terms that have become a core of our identity, such as feminism. Then why do we struggle with our response to such incidents that unravel unabashedly around us? Let’s address the elephant in the room. It is just not another day when one hears screams, and muffled cries from the next-door neighbour and it does not sound right, you instinctively know that the woman of the house is in trouble and yet stay confused about how effectively could, rather should you intervene. Would one be nosy if one interferes in the private matter of a couple, family, or household? Or would one be culpable to the “crime” of witnessing violence yet choosing to dismiss it? Not to mention the idiom of guilt. To take it a step further, what if this violence unravels in the digital space rather than in a room where you could just walk in and intervene?

One does not have to be an expert to comprehend that any form of violence- physical, mental, or emotional is a violation of the victim’s human rights, dignity, and of their identity. The impact of any form and intensity of violence can have both short-term as well as lifelong effects. While the rate of criminal violence faced by men is higher than by women, domestic abuse and violence are rightfully understood as gendered, wherein women face higher incidences of domestic violence. WHO reports that 1 in 3 women globally experiences violence. 2 in 3 women report that they or a woman they know have ever experienced violence. But, as Weiss (2022) in his recent study suggests that only a few victims “seek help from nonprofit organizations, healthcare providers, or law enforcement agencies, choosing instead to disclose to friends and family or to nobody at all”. One could also try to understand whether the victims’ socio-cultural context makes a difference in the reporting of the incident or the victim seeking aid.

Although the act of violence cannot be generalized across and is very context specific; incidents of violence faced by girls and women stand true across societies, cultures, and the political-economies. While the regions of Oceania, Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa have the highest prevalence rates of intimate partner violence among women aged 15-49, ranging from 33% – 51%.  The lowest rates are found in Europe (16–23%), Central Asia (18%), Eastern Asia (20%) and South-Eastern Asia (21%). The multiple studies further show how this situation was exacerbated during the Covid19 pandemic wherein incidents of intimate partner violence shot up during the lockdown(s).

Bearing in mind that the physical and social settings are significant parameters to identify the reason behind the nature of violence that increased during the pandemic, I wonder how one rightfully determine the nature and scope of violence unleashed in the digital space against women, which was again amplified during Covid19. Along with the juggling of their multiple selves online, the simultaneous unraveling of multilayered styles of online abuse in its various avatars made us aware of the critical need for digital rights of citizens across the globe. While internet connectivity made it definitely easier for us to stay connected with our peers and colleagues during the lockdowns, the vulnerability that its users experience on a regular basis could not be ignored further. Akin to the many forms in which violence against women and girls manifests itself, there is certainly a paucity of data to concisely understand the effect and scope of digital data on its users from a policy-making perspective. However, at Campbell Collaboration, our reports on digital interventions for intimate partner violencedomestic violence , sexual and gender based violence to name a few enable us in envisioning where the lacunae in research data can be supported for better strategies to combat the endemic of violence against women.

So while we celebrate International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th, and the data and the reports serve the purpose of creating litigation blueprints and policy-making, the evidence also prods us to address the elephant in the room, that is, to take a hard look at our own socio-cultural context. It is not so much about breaking the silence in the room, shaking things up or putting the tag of humanist or feminist in our identity; but having the courage to be cognisant of ones own compass. Because if we are to systemically eliminate violence against women and contain the newer forms emerging in the virtual space, we ought to think of how violence not only has detrimental consequences for women but also for the community at large.


Weiss, BR. And Shulman, M. (2022). Organizational Bias in Gender-Based Violence Research. Social Currents, 9(6), 511-525. https://doi.org/10.1177/23294965221111339

Emezue, C. and Bloom, TL. (2021). PROTOCOL: Technology-based and digital interventions for intimate partner violence: A meta-analysis and systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 17:e1132. https://doi.org/10.1002/cl2.1132

Wilson, D. B., Feder, L., & Olaghere, A. Court-mandated interventions for individuals convicted of domestic violence: An updated Campbell systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2021; 17:e1151. https://doi.org/10.1002/cl2.1151

Philbrick, W.,Milnor, J., Deshmukh, M., & Mechael, P. (2022). Information and communications technology use to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence in low- and middle-income countries: An evidence and gap map. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 18, e1277. https://doi.org/10.1002/cl2.1277

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