Do public awareness campaigns reduce domestic violence?

Awareness-raising/media campaigns are difficult to evaluate and there is no clear evidence that, in isolation, they prevent violence.

There is some evidence that domestic violence campaigns targeting perpetrators can be effective, particularly when they focus on motivators such as the impact on children. There is also evidence that campaigns targeting discrete communities, such as university campuses, have been successful in changing attitudes towards observed violence.

However, what we need to do at a community level is to shift social norms and change behaviours – both complex outcomes that take more than just media messages. Many public awareness campaigns fail to bring about changes in attitudes and behaviours because they start from the flawed premise that just telling someone something is bad will make them stop doing it.

For awareness campaigns to succeed they need to:
ensure people can relate to the message
clearly communicate what the problem is and we want them to do
address the barriers (such as social norms)
provide services and resources to support behaviour change.

Public awareness campaigns work well when the target audience knows they are the target audience. This is easier when the target is a specific group (BreastScreen, for instance, is only talking to women aged 50 to 74), but harder when the target is the general population. It is difficult to develop a message that clearly talks to everyone. But if we are to achieve the goal of raising community awareness and changing community attitudes, we need everyone to be listening.