Stop violence against women drug users


As stated by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC (2018)[1], the prevalence of gender-based violence among women who use drugs is two to five times higher than among women who do not use drugs; among people who use drugs, women face much more violence than men who use drugs (Roustide and Jauffret, B. 2015; EMCDDA, 2019). This risk factor is very significant in itself because the structural unbalanced gender-related distribution of power, interacts in a significant way with other factors of oppression like problematic drug-use, poverty, ethnicity or migration.

The aim of this research was to better understand gender-based violence against women who use drugs (WWUD) as well as to map the best (and worst) intervention practices in the 6 EU participating countries in this regard. To this end, the following research actions have been performed:

-Literature review:  80 papers and grey literature were analysed.

-Survey aimed at Women Who Use Drugs (N= 261) from 6 EU partner countries.

-Survey aimed at Professional Staff (N= 492) from 6 EU partner countries working in different facilities where the treatment is directed to women who use drugs and/or have experienced GBV.

-15 Focus Groups: 12 aimed at WWUD (2 per partner country) and 3 aimed at Professional Staff.

-120 interviews (20 per partner country) aimed at Professional Staff and Key informants.

Based on the above, a quantitative and qualitative analysis with gender and feminist approach was carried out. These are some of the most salient results:

The majority of the Women Who Use Drugs (WWUD) reported having experienced gender- based psychological (86,64%) and/or physical violence (74,23%); 44,62% sexual violence in adulthood and 24,62% sexual violence in childhood.

By contexts, the high prevalence of institutional violence (26,54%) stands out and opens up the possibility of improving intervention strategies in both mainstream and specialised services for Women Who Use Drugs (WWUD). Focus groups with WWUD have revealed numerous examples of this regard.

Men who use drugs and/or alcohol (86,22%) and who do not use drugs and/or alcohol (51,97%) are more often reported as perpetrators compared to women (33.47% / 21.65% who do /do not use drugs). This difference looks much stronger if we look at those reported as frequent male aggressors (50,39% users – 15,75% not users) compared to women (5,12% users – 4,33% not users).

Looking into the intersectionality between three or more factors, then adding to gender identity and drug use, poverty (32,41%) stands out.

Only 24,49% of professional staff (27,63% of women and 11,7% of men) reported working from gender perspective.

54.39% of professional staff acknowledged that they had no knowledge of drug use and gender-based violence.

According to both WWUD (75,79%) and professional staff (83,78%) integrated services for women who use drugs facing GBV seem to bring together the most “traditional” aspects of drug services as well as those related to gender mainstreaming.

For further information you can download the full report HERE.