Violence against women migrants and refugees: analysing causes and effective policy response

NKVTS and six international partners in Europe, the Middle East and Canada have received a grant for a three-year study (2019–2022) on ‘Violence against women migrants and refugees: analysing causes and effective policy response.’ The project is funded by the Joint Call on Gender and UN Sustainable Development Goals under Horizon 2020; the consortium is coordinated by Professor Jane Freedman at the Centre de recherches sociologiques et politiques de Paris. Research Professor Margunn Bjørnholt from NKVTS is principal investigator for the Norwegian part of the project.

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Article in the Nordic Journal of Criminology: The social dynamics of revictimization and intimate partner violence: an embodied, gendered, institutional and life course perspective


This article offers a qualitative, institutional analysis of the dynamics of revictimization as the accumulation of disadvantages over time and across different institutional contexts, and its multiple gender dimensions. It draws on 37 qualitative interviews with victims of intimate partner violence, detailing the institutional causal pathways to victimization and revictimization over the life course, through the in-debth analysis of one case. Drawing on the vulnerability approach, developed by Martha Albertson Fineman, the analysis demonstrates how victimization and revictimization have been facilitated, tolerated, and even produced by particular institutional contexts, illustrating how the ‘risk of revictimization’ is not a characteristic of the individual, nor is it destiny. The article contributes to a constructive social science, elucidating how victimization is contingent on social and institutional contexts, and how at several critical points, better institutions and better institutional responses to particular events might have prevented or interrupted the dynamics of accumulating victimization. Focusing on embodied, gendered subjects and the role of institutions in producing as well as remedying inequalities has far reaching implications for research and prevention of violence. In contrast to a risk-factor approach targeting particular groups and individuals, a vulnerability analysis calls for a responsive state and universal institutional solutions.


domestic violence, gender, intimate partner violence, institution, prevention, revictimisation

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Bjørnholt, Margunn (2019). The social dynamics of revictimization and intimate partner violence: an embodied, gendered, institutional and life course perspective (PDF). Nordic Journal of Criminology, 20(1), 90–110. doi: 10.1080/14043858.2019.1568103

Article in the Journal of Gender-Based Violence: Measuring violence, mainstreaming gender: does adding harm make a difference?

Keywords: Gender; mainstreaming; quantitative methods; survey; violence

This article contributes to the methodological debate on how to define and measure violence in order to more effectively capture gendered patterns of exposure to violence in survey studies. The authors take as their starting point Walby and Towers’ proposals to mainstream gender in surveys, and to define violence more narrowly by adding the concept of injury. This article applies Walby and Towers’ quality criteria to a Norwegian survey on violence and rape, and finds that it performs relatively well in accounting for the main gender dimensions they propose. The article presents an analysis of the gender dimensions of violence in the original study, as well as a re-analysis of the data, including harm in line with Walby and Towers’ propositions. It also adds fear of being severely injured or killed. Based on this analysis, the authors conclude that acts alone represent an adequate measure for severe violence and sexual violence and the gendered pattern of exposure. In contrast with Walby and Towers’ assumption, adding harm did not change the gender distribution of exposure. However, adding fear of being injured or killed made a gender difference.

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Cite this work:

Bjørnholt, Margunn; Hjemdal, Ole Kristian (2018). Measuring violence, mainstreaming gender: does adding harm make a difference? Journal of Gender-Based Violence, 2(3), 465–479. doi: 10.1332/239868018X15366982109807

Article in the Journal of European Social Policy: Same but different: Polish and Norwegian parents’ work–family adaptations in Norway

This article explores how families with young children arrive at and live with different work–family adaptations within a welfare state that strongly supports the dual earner/dual carer model—that of Norway. It draws on a qualitative study among Norwegian-born and Polish-born parents, representing respectively ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ views on this model. The analysis aims at capturing the dynamic interplay between structures and policies, and everyday practices. We found that both Norwegian and Polish parents embraced the cultural ideal of the dual earner/dual carer model, but that their perceived scope of action differed. Within the Norwegian group there were differences related to class, however. Among middle-class Norwegian parents, the model was internalised as a moral obligation and part of identity, making it difficult to voice and cope with work–family conflict. Working-class parents in this group, varied more in their identification with this model. Across class, Polish parents, in contrast, used welfare state entitlements eclectically to shape new and more gender equal family practices in Norway, and to adjust to changing circumstances. The article illustrates how enabling structures may represent both opportunities for and limitation to individual agency, undermining the assumption of a simple ‘fit’ between work–family policies, work–family adaptations and gender equality in the family.

Bjørnholt, Margunn; Stefansen, Kari (2018). Same but different: Polish and Norwegian parents’ work–family adaptations in Norway (PDF). Journal of European Social Policy, 29(2), 292–304. doi: 10.1177/0958928718758824

Preventing violence against women in the Nordic countries: Gender-blind or gender-based prevention?

The slides for my plenary address “Gender-blind or gender-based prevention?” at the Nordic conference “Preventing violence against women in the Nordic countries” on 8 March 2018 can be downloaded here. The conference was hosted by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security and the Ministry of Children and Equality and marked the conclusion of the Norwegian presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2017.

Book chapter: How to make what really matters count in economic decision-making?

Bjørnholt offers a reflection on 25 years of feminist economics providing illustrative examples of how feminist academic critique, within and outside of academia, in combination with civil engagement has evolved, promoting change towards better economics, better policies and well-being for all. Mirroring the widening scope over time of feminist economics, Bjørnholt discusses the exclusion of care and other life-sustaining, unpaid work from systems of national accounts and efforts to make them count; efforts to achieve gender justice through gender responsive budgeting; the effort to bring society’s attention to the extent of domestic violence and its consequences; and understanding economics as social provisioning, which considers the responsibility to care for everything, including human rights and our shared livingspace Earth, when assessing the consequences of macro-economic policy.

Bjørnholt, Margunn (2018). How to make what really matters count in economic decision-making: Care, domestic violence, gender responsive budgeting, macro-economic policies and human rights. In Vincenzo Giorgino and Zachary David Walsh (eds), Co-Designing Economies in Transition: Radical Approaches in Dialogue with Contemplative Social Sciences (pp. 135–159). London: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-3-319-66591-7.

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Article in Central and Eastern European Migration Review: The Role of Family Policy Regimes in Work–Family Adaptations: Polish Parents in Norway and Poland

The aim of this article is to examine how family policies contribute to changes in family practices and towards gender equality in families. Empirically we draw on interviews with two groups of Polish-born parents: Polish parents who have migrated to Norway and Polish parents living in Poland. Norway and Poland are relevant cases for our exploration because they represent different types of welfare states, which have followed different paths towards their current family policy package. In our analysis of actual work–family adaptations we found a convergence towards gender equal dual-earner/dual-carer arrangements in both groups, although there were differences in the level of agency. Polish parents in Poland felt less entitled to use the measures available to them, and sometimes refrained from using them, compared to Polish parents in Norway who expressed a strong sense of agency in using family policy measures to create a good life in Norway and as part of a project of change towards more gender-equal sharing of work and care responsibilities. The analysis confirms the strong link between family practices and family policies, but also illustrates how the effect of policies on practices may be hampered or boosted by the wider historical-cultural context of the society in question. In conclusion, in analyses of the link between policy and practice it may be fruitful to distinguish between family policy packages—the concrete set of entitlements for working parents—and family policy regimes, meaning policies in their wider context, including migrancy as a mediating factor.

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Bjørnholt, Margunn; Stefansen, Kari; Wężyk, Agata; Merecz-Kot, Dorota (2017). The role of family policy regimes in work–family adaptations: Polish parents in Norway and Poland. Central and Eastern European Migration Review. doi: 10.17467/ceemr.2017.12

Balancing acts: Policy frameworks and family care strategies in Norway

What is the practical and emotional reality of combining paid work and care in a highly developed universal welfare state with high levels of employment of women and strong institutional and ideological support for the dual earner–dual carer model? In this chapter we explore this question using Norway as a case, and drawing on qualitative interviews with both parents of young children and adults who have care responsibilities for older family members or relatives. Using the caringscapes/carescapes framework as sensitizing concepts, we discern two distinct contextual configurations or carescapes. For childcare, there is a standardised cultural script related to responsibilities and timing of transitions, which is supported by an extensive and integrated policy package. Caring for the elderly, in contrast, takes place in a weaker and more fragmented policy context. Caring for the elderly is not embedded in different policy-frameworks regarded as contributing to a higher aim, like gender equality or the best development of the next generation. Nevertheless, we also find that for parents of young children, living up to the new norm of full time work and institutionalization of childcare from an early age, raises new challenges and ambiguities.

Read the chapter:

Bjørnholt, Margunn; Stefansen, Kari;  Gashi, Liridona and Seeberg, Marie Louise (2017). Balancing acts: Policy frameworks and family care strategies in Norway. In Tomáš Sirovátka and Jana Válková (eds), Understanding Care Policies in Changing Times: Experiences and Lessons from the Czech Republic and Norway (pp. 161–184). Masaryk University Press/Centre for Studies of Democracy and Culture. Sociology Series. Volume No. 17. ISBN 978-80-7325-424-7.

Intimate partner violence – gender, equality and power

In January 2016 I join the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies (NKVTS) as a research professor, to head a 3-year research project on intimate partner violence, with particular emphasis on gender, equality and power relations. The project is funded by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security and is part of a research program on violence in close relationships, which NKVTS has been tasked by the government with implementing.