Domestic violence and social norms: attitudes and practices of criminal justice and health workers in Norway and Brazil
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Background: In recent years, gender-based domestic violence has gained significant visibility and is currently considered a priority in the field of public health. Research objective: To explore how professional and social norms and regulations impact the attitudes and practices of health and criminal justice professionals regarding domestic violence against women in Brazil and Norway. Methods: I selected a qualitative approach and gathered data through individual, semi-structured interviews with professionals from the health and criminal justice departments. I conducted 16 in-depth interviews (eight in Brazil and eight in Norway, with four health professionals and four criminal justice professionals in each country). I focused on their perceptions of existing workflows between identifying cases of violence and dealing with these cases. I analyzed the transcribed interviews using a focused open coding process. I assigned codes to statements through a line-by-line, cross-interview analysis of the raw data. Findings: The participants ranged in age from 32 to 59. All of them work with domestic violence victims both with and without supervision. According to the opinions of some participants, violence against women is a historical problem rooted in: a society that accepts the superiority of men and imposes a submissive role for women; the subordination of women; and the domination of men over decision-making and women’s lives. This problem is aggravated by women’s social, cultural, and economic dependence. Some respondents recognized and linked patriarchy to violence against women, while others seemed unaware of the concept. Both countries have regulations to provide professionals with guidance on navigating services related to domestic violence cases; and their governments try to give professionals some rules to follow when helping domestic violence victims. For many reasons, professionals do not always follow these regulations, but the situation is more complicated in Brazil, where service providers face several challenges in comparison to the circumstances in Norway. Conclusion: Personal beliefs and observed norms concerning the acceptability of domestic violence are critical risk factors for women. Individual characteristics, family, the environment, and even one’s professional profile can affect the way health or criminal justice workers perceive and deal with domestic violence cases.