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Knowledge gaps

Last edited: September 14, 2012

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While evidence from descriptive and some comparative studies identify how specific services such as certain forms of counseling can improve mental health and life outcomes for women, there is a lack of high-quality evidence regarding the effectiveness of shelter services in increasing women’s future safety (both in the short and long-term) and/or improving other important outcomes for women (such as in regards to obtaining justice and other aspects of empowerment - obtaining employment opportunities; secure housing, etc.). 

Provision of crisis services for women at high risk of injury and death, which is a common aspect of responding to women’s immediate support needs, may not always be guided by the available evidence on the issue. Greater understanding of practices used and promising interventions from a variety of settings is needed to better understand, refine and tailor services for women, appropriate to their specific circumstances, which can maximize their ability to progress in their lives free from violence.

More evidence is required on which types of counseling work for which women, including theoretical models, intensity and mode of delivery.  This is especially relevant to an emerging emphasis on internet-delivered services in some settings and ongoing provision of counseling services by paraprofessionals or non-specialist shelter staff.

Specialist domestic violence courts and legal advocacy services are promising, but greater evidence on effective shelter partnerships with justice services is needed.

Many practices have not been specifically and rigorously evaluated in settings with limited resources, especially low- and middle-income countries. There is a critical need for evaluations from these areas, including adaptation and evaluation of promising practice models based in higher-resourced communities, as well as evaluation of alternative interventions. Specifically, research is needed on:

  • Housing interventions appropriate for lower-resourced settings.
  • Income-related interventions for abused women in shelters.
  • Health-related interventions linked with shelters.

Resources to improve the gaps in evidence include:

a protocol for a multi-country evaluation model for women’s shelters (Sullivan et al., 2008)

guidance for using multi-level modeling and a complex systems approach to designing research in this area (Javdani et al., 2011)

a practical guide to conducting evaluations in this area (Lyon and Sullivan, 2007)

methods to ethically retain abused women in VAW-related studies (Clough et al., 2011)