Disability and Perceived Social Norms Surrounding Intimate Partner Violence in Conflict-Exposed Communities in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo



Deffenbaugh, Laurel A

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INTRODUCTION: Studies have shown that women living with a disability and women in conflict settings who are exposed to political violence are at higher risk for experiencing IPV, but more research is needed to examine IPV among women who have the combined vulnerability of living with a disability within a conflict setting. OBJECTIVE: This study examined the relationship between disability and perceptions of social norms regarding male-perpetrated intimate partner violence (IPV) against women in conflict-affected settings. METHODS: The study used secondary quantitative data drawn from a baseline study of 2018 violence prevention program in North Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), by the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Perceptions of social norms were measured through the Partner Violence Norms Scale (PVNS) which measures perceptions of social norms surrounding gender norms and violence against women (VAW) in the home. A woman’s disability status was assessed based on severity as a three-level categorical variable. Linear regression models were applied to examine the relationship of a woman’s disability status and her PVNS score as well as her male partner’s PVNS score. RESULTS: Ninety-eight heterosexual couples were included. Women with severe disability had a lower PVNS scores on average than women with no disability (mean difference = -1.36, 95%CI: -2.39, -0.23, p = 0.014) when controlling for demographic variables. No significant difference in men’s PVNS scores based on their female partner’s disability status was found. CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that women with severe disability may perceive their communities to be less accepting of IPV than women with no disability, highlighting the complexity of the relationship between disability, IPV, and social norms and the importance of further analysis where disability as recognized as spectrum. Understanding social norms that influence IPV through PVNS scores may be used to inform understanding of male perpetration of abuse and how women perceive their own social roles and protections against IPV.


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Violence against women, Disability, Intimate partner violence, Male-perpetrated, Conflict, Democratic Republic of the Congo