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Eurobarometer:  Attitudes to violence against women and children

 DN: IP/99/508 Date: 1999-07-14 TXT: FR EN PDF: FR EN Word Processed: FR EN IP/99/508 
Brussels, 14 July 1999 

Eurobarometer: Attitudes to violence against women and children

The European Commission has presented two Eurobarometers concerning attitudes to violence against women and children. The survey concerning women has been conducted within the framework of the European Campaign against violence against women, and that concerning children under the DAPHNE Initiative. Both show a massive condemnation of violence, and in particular sexual violence, against both women and children. A vast majority of the Europeans are aware of the fact that this problem exists and they also hold the view that this type of violence is fairly widespread. However, most people have become aware of the problem through information in the media, while the subject still seems to be little discussed among friends and family. Only few claim to know any victim of violence. Contrary to the actual situation, most people believe that the victims are most at risk from people they do not know. Alcohol, drugs, unemployment, poverty and social exclusion top the list of circumstances seen as the main causes for violent behaviour. 

"The findings give a lot of positive signals. Firstly, of course, the fact that there is such a widespread knowledge of the existence of this problem. And secondly that almost all Europeans find violence against women and children unacceptable. Notable is also the fact that a substantial majority thinks that the European Union has a role to play in the fight against violence," says Commissioner Anita Gradin, responsible for Justice and Home Affairs. 

"However, the result also shows that there is a need for further actions and awareness raising. The fact that most people have learned about this problem through the media, and that it seems to be seldom talked about among friends and family, to me indicates that the problem is still subject to certain taboos. These crimes are happening in our neighbourhood and contrary to popular belief the perpetrator is in most cases someone close to the victim". 

The opinion poll examines what the Europeans think about issues relating to domestic violence against women and violence against children. It studies how much the European citizens know about the matter and how widespread they think it is. The survey further investigates what people believe to be the causes of violence as well as how they believe the violence should be combated.

Domestic violence against women. Only 4% of the Europeans have never heard of domestic violence against women. Of those that had, most had heard of it through television (89%), the press (65%) and radio (44%). 

One in two thought that this type of violence was fairly common (50%), one in four (24%) that it was very common and only 19% answered not very common or not at all common. 

Sexual violence against women was considered very serious by 90% of the Europeans, physical violence by 87%, psychological violence by 65%, restricted freedom by 64% and threats of violence by 58%. 

As for the causes of domestic violence the most cited by the Europeans were alcohol (96%), drug addiction (94%), unemployment (79%), poverty/social exclusion (73%), having oneself been a victim of violence (73%). 

62% of Europeans considered domestic violence against women to be unacceptable in all circumstances and always punishable by law, against 32% who considered it unacceptable in all circumstances but not always punishable by law. 

As for the question on how to combat domestic violence 95% of people thought that punishing the perpetrator served a useful purpose, 91% thought tougher enforcement of existing laws did, 91% believe in teaching young people about mutual respect. 

More than two out of three Europeans (67%) felt that the European union should definitely get involved in combating domestic violence against women. However, 79% were unaware of any such policy measures put forward by the EU. 

Violence against children. Only 1% of the respondents had never heard of violence against children. The main sources of information were television (94%), press (70%) and radio (51%). 

Practically all Europeans (more than 97%) consider sexual abuse of children as a form of violence. Bullying by other children (88%) and corporal (74%) and psychological (75%) punishment are also high on the list. Only 59% of Europeans consider physical punishment by parents to be violence. 

77% of Europeans believe that violence against children is very or fairly common. Contrary to the actual situation most people believe that the children are most at risk from people they do not know (74%) or from stepfathers (71%). 

On the causes of violence alcohol (94%) and drugs (93%) are at the top of the list. 77% consider the fact that the perpetrator him/herself has been a victim of violence as a root cause. 

61% of respondents consider violence against children to be unacceptable in all circumstances and always punishable by law. 30% regard it as unacceptable in all circumstances but not always punishable. 

A majority in all Member States (average 64%) believes that legislation against sexual violence is insufficient in their country. 91% believe that stricter application of existing laws would be effective in the fight against violence. 94% think that tougher punishment is an appropriate response to violence. 

A large majority in all Member States (91%) is of the opinion that EU should certainly or probably be involved in combating violence against children. 

The Eurobarometer was conducted between 12 March and 4 May 1999. A total number of 16 179 persons aged 15 and over were interviewed. This gave a representative sample of about 1000 persons in each Member State.