The first theme explains the divergent idea of the community towards IPVAW. The sub-categories for the second theme on women response includes tolerance, temporary or permanent separation, seeking outside help, and physical/verbal self defenses. Thirdly, the theme on the measures to be taken to stop or reduce IPVAW was focusing the activities at individual, family, community, and country levels.
The majority of the discussants have mixed and divergent feelings to express the community attitudes on IPVAW. Some justified the accusation of women by their husbands if she committed extra marital sexual affairs. This goes with the finding from other similar study justified wife beating triggered by an action that is socially unacceptable like sexual infidelity . Similarly the EDHS of 2005 indicated that the majority of women believed for a husband to be justified in beating his wife at least for one reason if she is: not completing housework on time, refused sex, disobeying her husband, being unfaithful or questioning him about his extra-marital relationships . These all implies the traditional norms place women in a subordinate position to men and have led to a culture of justification of IPVAW. However, some of the discussants were claiming the act of wife abuse to be a criminal act because currently it is given attention by the government.
The majority of the discussants assured the victims in their community are living with their abusive partners tolerating the incident. This could be justified as lack of awareness of the women about their rights. Moreover, the influence of traditional believes and norms in their area are more pronounced. This is similar with the findings from Spain that showed high level of women violence tolerance was associated with low awareness about their rights . The reason why abused women hide violent attacks to their children, family, friends, and neighborhood is to avoid outside interference and later reprisal from the abuser which forces the victim to prefers and live with the abusive partner silently. Women often considered it as a shameful to share such personal problems with others . For example, previous study from rural Ethiopia showed nearly half of the women kept silent after the violent attack from their intimate partners . This explains why many women do not discuss violence with anyone else that indicates either they consider it normal feature of life or ashamed of revealing the violence.
In most cases the victim primarily tries to report the incident to their relatives, close friends, or local elders for advice and support. But these depend on the severity of the violent act that ranges from verbal threats to severe physical aggression. This finding goes with the result from Nicaragua which indicated that the woman’s decision to seek help may be triggered by specific incidents like when attacked severely, affecting the children welfare, and destroying properties .
In the study area few women, especially from urban are fighting against their abusive husbands/partners either physically or verbally in order to protect themselves. This is in contrast with finding from Nepal and Nicaragua where the majority of the women reported in defending themselves from abusive partners [21, 34]. However, it is corroborating the finding from rural Ethiopian showed only six percent of the victims had fought back to defend themselves from the violent husbands/partners . In Ethiopian context, it is evident that fighting back to the husbands is not culturally accepted and thus it is shameful for the woman to hit her husband though, this by itself could be one strategy in minimizing damage from abusive partners.
Some women mainly from the rural go to their relative house and to a lesser extent to friends or neighbors. This goes with the study result from Butajira, Ethiopia indicated about one in three women left their home either temporarily or permanently because of the incident . Actually some culture specific factors that are related with the practice of women leaving home or staying somewhere without their partner can determine this strategy. This depends on the availability of places of safety for women and their children. However, ending a relationship does not necessarily reduce a woman’s risk, as some partners become even more violent when women leave or attempt to leave the relationships .
The suggested measures for stopping or reducing IPVAW are targeting the factors described in the ecological model for the occurrences of IPVAW at the levels of individual, relationships/family, community, and society/country . This is because of the fact that IPVAW is a multifaceted issue with psychological, social and environmental roots . According to their suggestions the measures require a variety of approaches targeted different stakeholders, including government and nongovernmental agencies, law enforcement agencies, the health and education sectors, the line ministries such as the women affairs, and other faith based organizations (FBOs). Their suggestions are in line with the recommendations from other similar studies from around the world [3, 21, 31, 37].
Currently there are several institutions which deal specifically with Gender Based Violence (GBV), including Women’s Affairs Offices (federal, regional, district (the lower administrative unit) and in some cases kebele (the lowest administrative unit in Government structure) level), the judiciary system (police, prosecutors office and court), health institutions, Ethiopian Women’s Lawyers Association (EWLA), women’s associations and schools. However, the effectiveness of these institutions to prevent intimate partner violence against women, mitigate its impact and enforce the laws has been reduced due to a number of factors, including limited capacity of the institutions, attitudes of the personnel, accessibility and affordability of the services including the quality of services provided to the community and lack of knowledge by women about the existence of such institutions. The community suggested measures also support these notions.
As to the strengths of this study, we have used a multi-dispensary research team. Moreover, the methodological efforts to achieve diverse and representative sample of discussants from the community and the rigor of the coding and analysis phases are meticulously applied. We also think that the discussions were open and free. However, concerning the limitation, as any other qualitative researches the study results may not be generalized to all other areas of the country. Despite this, we believe that this study has contributed a deeper understanding and knowledge for people in this field and similar area.