General Guidelines

Chapter 1


This chapter introduces the main concepts of gender-based violence (GBV) in Section 1.1, and then in Section 1.2 provides an overview of this e-learning module’s target groups, aim and structure.

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1.1.1 Definition

Gender-based violence (GBV) is violence that is directed against a person because of that person's gender, gender identity or gender expression, or that affects persons of a particular gender disproportionately (Victims' Rights Directive 2012/29/EU).

1.1.2 GBV against women

Violence against women is used sometimes as synonym for GBV due to the fact that in the majority of cases, women are the victims. Indeed, the main cause of GBV is the unequal distribution of political, social and economic power between men and women, making the latter most vulnerable to GBV.

However, legal documents make a distinction between GBV and violence against women:

  • The Beijing Platform for Action defines violence against women as any act of GBV that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.
  • The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention) defines the term ‘GBV against women’ as violence against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately.

The Beijing Platform for Action points out that violence against women is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between men and women. The Istanbul Convention underlines that it is a form of discrimination and a violation of the human rights.

Gender is fundamental in explaining violence against women in general, as well as intimate-partner violence (IPV) specifically, as the mentioned legal documents highlight. GBV cannot be understood unless gender roles, societal norms and inequalities are taken into consideration. Gender (in contrast to sex, which is a biological attribute) is socially constructed and refers to what a culture or society considers that the roles, tasks, attributes and behaviours of women and men should be. Gender identity is the person's own choice of gender (that can be consistent with the sex assigned at birth or not), while gender expression makes reference to the way in which people express their gender identity.

GBV is rooted in and reinforces gender inequality. Gender inequalities in employment, level of income, education or political participation and representation empower men and make women more vulnerable to violence.

Traditional gender roles support violence against women and girls as has been evidenced by many studies on the phenomenon of GBV. For example, the WHO offers some examples of gender norms that support violence against women and girls, among which are:

  • a man has the right to discipline a woman for incorrect behaviour;
  • physical violence is an acceptable way of solving conflict in a relationship;
  • sexual activity is a man’s right in marriage.

Most recent data from population-based surveys also reveal that tolerance of violence and blaming attitudes towards women victims of violence are still present. Data from a 2016 Special Eurobarometer on Gender-based violence reveal that 22% of respondents across the EU consider that women often ‘make up’ or exaggerate claims of abuse or rape, while 17% appreciate that violence against women is often provoked by the victim.

1.1.3 GBV against men

Men also can be the target of GBV. For example, homosexual men, as well as lesbian women, bi-sexual and transgender persons can experience violence triggered by their gender identity and gender expression. Also in conflict zones outside the EU, there are documented cases of killings disproportionately targeting men civilians, mainly in order to prevent them from becoming soldiers. It is also important to note that the great majority of perpetrators of gender-based violence against men (as well as against women) are men.

At the same time, men can also face violence in an intimate relationship (IPV). However, in the great majority of cases, the victims of IPV are women while the perpetrators are men. As a result of this, as well to the fact that this form of violence is rooted in women’s disadvantaged position in the social, economic and political life, and also because it is reinforced by gender norms that accept and justify violence against women, IPV is included among the forms of GBV against women. In addition, the consequences of the violence are experienced as more severe by women, due to their disadvantaged economic, social and political resources.

1.1.4 Stereotypes and myths about GBV

There are still a lot of stereotypes and myths surrounding GBV. Among these are the following:

1. Domestic violence, here referred to as intimate-partner violence (IPV), is a private matter that should be resolved within the family.

  • Actually IPV is a human rights violation and the state has an obligation to fight against it. Furthermore it implies a lot of cost for society (economic loss due to days of absence from work, costs for medical and health services, costs for investigating the cases and prosecuting the perpetrators, costs for victim-support services: shelters, social assistance or therapy). The cost of GBV to the EU was estimated at approximatively 256 billion euros annually. 

2. IPV occurs only in low-income, poorly educated, minority or dysfunctional families

  • IPV occurs in all types of families.

3. Between all couples there are disagreements and conflicts.

  • There is a difference between violence and a conflict. People are allowed to have different opinions, but it is not justified to become violent towards a person that does not agree with your point of view and nothing gives a person the right to discipline or punish another.

4. Violence between intimate partners is usually a single-time incident.

  • Actually IPV is a repeated pattern of violence that can continue over a long period of time and often ends up with lethal consequences.

5. The victim is responsible because they provoked the aggressor, who just lost his temper.

  • There is no justification for violence. People are responsible for their actions and cannot blame others for their behaviours.

6. Violence against the intimate partner is caused by aggressor’s alcohol and drugs consumption.

  • Many people consume alcohol or drugs without becoming aggressive and also many of the perpetrators were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they attached the victim. Alcohol and drugs cannot be used as an excuse for committing crimes.

7. Men who abuse women are mentally ill.

  • Practical evidence does not support this thesis. Most aggressors do not have mental health problems.

8. Often the victim exaggerates the claims of abuse. If it were that bad, the victim would leave.

  • Leaving an abusive partner is a very difficult decision due to social and cultural norms, as well as because of economic reasons. Also in many cases, the abuse does not start at the beginning of the relationship, but later on when due to many reasons (for example, for the safety of the children) it is more difficult for the victim to leave.


This is the second version of the GBV e-learning module. It was created in September-December 2017 as a comprehensive revision and update of the previous version.

CEPOL's Gender-Based Violence module was created in order to allow police and other law enforcement officers who come in contact with victims of GBV to properly recognise the cases, to identify the risk factors and to guide their actions in dealing with victims and cases of GBV. The module will present the newest legal standards and instruments in the field of GBV and good practices in addressing incidences.

As was stated above, GBV includes different forms of violent behaviours. Hence, Chapters 2 and 3 will provide an overview of the concept of GBV, focusing on the most commonly used forms of GBV ({link id=1558}Chapter 2{/link}) and providing an insight on the legal framework in addressing GBV ({link id=1559}Chapter 3{/link}). After this, the module will focus on a specific form and manifestation of GBV: intimate-partner violence (IPV). This is in order to provide the reader with guidelines and clearer examples to facilitate his/her learning experience through the module.

Several factors were taken into account when deciding to adopt this approach:

  • the reported prevalence of IPV across the EU Member States. According to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) Survey on Violence against Women, 22% of women aged 18-74 have experienced physical and / or sexual violence by a partner from the age of 15; making it one of the priorities to be addressed by the EU. However, it should not be forgotten that GBV can manifest itself in a variety of equally dangerous forms.
  • feedback coming from police officers that they often lack instruments and guidelines that deal with IPV, a form of GBV they are often asked to deal with in their daily work, and the important role and task that police have in preventing and combating IPV.
  • for practical learning purposes it has deemed necessary to focus on one form of GBV throughout the module to facilitate its understanding.

1.2.1 Target groups and aims

The module was elaborated in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2015/2219 of 25 November 2015 on the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL). This stipulates that CEPOL shall develop, implement and coordinate training addressing specific criminal or policing thematic areas, and train trainers and assist in improving and exchanging best learning practices.

CEPOL also supports Member States in meeting the requirements of Victims’ Rights Directive (Directive 2012/29/EU of 25 October 2012), which establishes minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime. Article 25 requires Member States to ensure that officials likely to come into contact with victims, such as police officers and court staff, receive both general and specialist training to a level appropriate to their contact with victims. This is in order to increase their awareness of the needs of victims and to enable them to deal with victims in an impartial, respectful and professional manner.

This module is addressed to both practitioners in the field of GBV (that work on prevention or investigation of GBV) and to trainers and instructors of law enforcement officials and personnel. It contains general guidelines for police first response and investigation, as well as prevention activities usually carried out by police (such as awareness-raising campaigns) and how to interact with victims of GBV and address their specific needs.

Educators and other users are invited to share further suggestions of module use in the forum on the CEPOL Platform for Educators.

1.2.2 Module contents

Apart from this introduction, the module consists of eight topic chapters and a glossary of GBV-related terms and abbreviations. In the {link id=400}My Progress{/link} section, users can check their levels of understanding of each of the topics by considering a selection of true/false statements.

The individual chapters are as follows:

Topic 2, Forms of GBV{/link}: This topic describes the most common forms of GBV: IPV, sexual harassment, rape, human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation (including for forced marriages), stalking, forced abortion and sterilisation, female genital mutilation, ‘honour’-related crimes and femicide.

Topic 3, The EU Framework and Approaches to GBV{/link}: Addressing GBV is a priority for the EU institutions and Member States and therefore several initiatives have been undertaken to efficiently respond to this threat. The topic presents the most relevant legal standards and instruments used in the struggle against GBV (the Istanbul Convention and the Victims’ Rights Directive). The most common approaches to address GBV are also described: a gender-sensitive approach, a victim-centred approach, a human rights-based approach and an interdisciplinary-cooperation approach.

Topic 4, Police First Response{/link}: This topic presents the main obligations and principles of GBV (and in particular IPV) first response: immediate response, risk assessment, emergency barring orders and victims’ rights respected (right to understand and to be understood, right to receive information from the first contact with a competent authority). Examples of two good practices are provided: the risk-assessment questionnaire used in Poland and emergency barring orders used by police in Austria. The main actions taken in the frame of the first response to IPV and other GBV cases are also described: intervention, stopping the perpetrator posing a threat to the victim’s life, well-being and property, providing the necessary help, providing appropriate information to the victim and securing the place of intervention and preparing the necessary documentation.

Topic 5, Protective Measures{/link}: This topic examines issues relating to the protection of the victims of GBV, and especially of IPV. It explains the concept of protection, the protection measures that can be implemented (such as physical protection, protection during criminal investigations, protection of privacy, provision of care, referral to relevant specialised entities or safe shelter) and the possibility to liaise with other relevant services as necessary.

Topic 6, Investigation{/link}: This topic offers guidelines for improving the investigation of GBV cases, focusing especially IPV cases. It starts with the first approach and risk assessment, questioning victims (related to the specific nature of the crime and victims vulnerability) and searching for evidence. It also underlines the importance of multi-institutional cooperation in responding to victims’ needs (medical and support services). Particular attention is dedicated to practical recommendations for overcoming attrition.

Topic 7, Preventive Measures{/link}: The prevention of GBV is a priority for police. This topic presents the obligations and principles in the prevention of GBV, and especially of IPV. The main forms of preventive measures are described: awareness-raising campaigns and programmes, education-based activities, preventive intervention and treatment programmes and the training of professionals.

Topic 8, Vulnerable Groups{/link}: Not all persons face the same risk of becoming victims of GBV, or of IPV. There are certain individual and social characteristics that increase vulnerability. Three particularly vulnerable groups are women with disabilities, women migrants and asylum seekers, and minors and young people. In this topic the specific reasons for vulnerability and the specific requirements for dealing with these categories of victims are analysed.

Glossary{/link}: This presents the technical terms, acronyms and other types of abbreviations used within this module.



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Violence against women is sometimes used as synonym for GBV.

  • True
  • False

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