The social and physical environment in which people live can affect them in different ways, one of these being the formation of attitudes. Attitudes may be a reflection of a person’s historical and cultural background, sex or socioeconomic status. Data about environmental factors are required to inform this element, which then may feed into the development and targeting of education and prevention policies that influence these factors. To gain a comprehensive understanding of these forms of violence both qualitative and quantitative data are required.
Examples of environmental factors
Family, domestic and sexual violence affects individuals across all socioeconomic levels; however research suggests that there is a correlation between low socioeconomic household status and increased risk of interpersonal violence (WHO 2004). Low socioeconomic status is a recurring factor in the incidence and prevalence of crime generally and the extent of violence in the community. It can also be a determining factor in the perpetration of family, domestic and sexual violence.
Low socioeconomic household status can place considerable strain on relationships and on communities, resulting in impaired functionality. Aspects of socioeconomic disadvantage which may affect the likelihood of an individual’s propensity to use violence include unemployment, homelessness, poverty and marital relationship status. These aspects may be used as an indicator of ‘connectedness’ between individuals, their family and community.
Social and Geographical Isolation
Isolation compounds problems of family, domestic and sexual violence because it may reduce access to formal and informal support networks (Carmody 2009). In rural and remote communities there are fewer professional support workers to service the local population and distance itself can be a barrier, with fewer transport options and pathways to safety. In urban areas, victims may also experience isolation from family and friends, which may be a result of deliberate acts to isolate by an abusive or controlling partner, or a symptom of broader social and economic disadvantage. Economic abuse can also contribute by not permitting people to access money for their own personal use or restricting people’s ability to seek or hold employment.
The presence of substance use or abuse has been linked to family, domestic and sexual violence and to other crimes, both at the time of specific violence and through a pattern of use over a longer period of time. The environment within which alcohol and other drugs are used is therefore of interest to researchers wishing to study family, domestic and sexual violence. Relevant research issues may include community attitudes to the use of alcohol and drugs, community usage patterns, awareness of risks associated with alcohol and drug use and protective behaviours.
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