This report presents the findings of a qualitative, time-series evaluation that assessed the impact on intimate partner violence (IPV) prevention of a pilot intervention program called Living Peace, which targeted the husbands of women who had experienced conflict-related rape and IPV in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Baseline quantitative and qualitative research conducted in 2012 and 2013 in DRC, which found that many husbands of rape survivors used multiple forms of violence against their wives, informed the creation of the initiative. The baseline research also found that, in a deeply patriarchal society with a high degree of gender inequality, exposure to conflict and conflict-related stress were key drivers of men’s use of IPV. By analyzing men’s responses to stress and trauma, the research found that psychological coping mechanisms are gendered. Constructions of male identity are associated with social expectations of manhood, and the impact of trauma directly affects male identity.
Consequently, strategies for coping with loss and trauma are gendered, meaning that men tend to cope with stress by seeking to redress their sense of emasculation, hiding their vulnerability and victimization. When they do not meet expectations of strength and control, men feel ashamed before their male peers and family, and fear exclusion from their social support system.
These findings opened a new window on working with men, not only as potential offenders of women’s rights who abuse their power, but also as subjects with gendered identities who are confined by stereotypical norms that shape behaviors as well as create identities and deeply-rooted perceptions of self. From a psychological perspective, men (and women) employ coping strategies to survive stress and difficult Executive Summary Background circumstances and, clearly, those coping strategies are strongly influenced by culture and gender norms and gendered power relations.
The Living Peace intervention focuses on: (1) helping men cope with trauma to reconstruct their identities in nonviolent, gender-transformative ways; (2) reducing stigma against and social exclusion of women who experienced conflict-related rape; (3) building social cohesion. Living Peace was piloted in 2013 in three sites in Burundi and DRC. The methodology uses group therapeutic principles to create an environment in which participants feel safe sharing and exchanging traumatic experiences and personal problems.
This qualitative impact evaluation of Living Peace was conducted in 2016, three years after the intervention was piloted, with men who had participated in Living Peace and with their partners/spouses, and other family and community members. Building on the intervention’s initial positive results, the impact evaluation aimed to assess the longer-term sustainability of these results and explore any changes in community-level norms three years later.
The impact evaluation was based on two rounds of qualitative research, the first in February 2016 and the second in April 2016, with 40 male Living Peace participants and their families and communities in Goma, North Kivu and Luvungi, South Kivu. The first round gathered perceptions from 155 respondents through focus groups with former participants’ wives, relatives, neighbors, and other community members. The analysis of those data was used to do a second round of research with 32 respondents using in-depth individual interviews.