Changing the norms that drive intimate partner violence: findings from a cluster randomised trial on what predisposes bystanders to take action in Kampala, Uganda

Tanya Abramsk, Tina Musuya, Sophie Namy, Charlotte Watts, Lori Michau BMJ Global Health, 2018; Read the full paper online

Despite widespread calls to end violence against women, there remains limited evidence on how to prevent it. Community-level programmes seek to engage all levels of the community in changing norms that drive intimate partner violence (IPV). However, little is known about what predisposes ordinary people to become active in violence prevention.

Using data from the SASA! study, a cluster randomised trial of a community mobilisation intervention in Kampala, Uganda, the authors explored which community members were most likely to intervene when they witness IPV.


  • Overall, SASA! community members were more likely to intervene than their control counterparts (57% vs 31%). 
  • In control communities, older age (women), increasing relationship duration (men), talking to neighbours (men) and believing it is okay for a woman to tell if she is experiencing IPV (men) were positively associated with trying to help. 
  • In SASA! communities associated factors were increasing relationship duration (women/men), employment (women), talking to neighbours (women), childhood abuse experiences (women), lifetime IPV (women/men), IPV-related attitudes (women/men) and greater SASA! exposure (women/men). 


Differing results between intervention and control communities suggest contextual factors may modify the effects of personal characteristics/experiences on helping behaviours. Motivation to act brought about by personal experiences of IPV, for example, might only propel individuals into action if they are equipped with the skills, confidence and support of others to do so. Community mobilisation can help create environments and synergies supportive of action.

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